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Cutting the Gordian knot: The effect of knowledge complexity on employee mobility and entrepreneurship



Employee entrepreneurship and employee moves to rival firms (employee mobility) have both been recognized as critical drivers of the transfer of knowledge. Drawing on a unique database of intra-industry inventor entrepreneurship and mobility events in the U.S. semiconductor industry, I examine the effect of the complexity of inventors’ prior patenting activities on their decisions to join a rival firm or found a start-up. The findings show that even though complexity inhibits knowledge diffusion to rival firms through employee mobility, complex knowledge may be underexploited within existing organizations and may still flow to startups through employee entrepreneurship. This study sheds new light on how technology shapes patterns of employee entrepreneurship and mobility, with implications for knowledge flows and competitive dynamics.

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