Internationalization of SMEs:
Toward a New Paradigm
Richard W. Wright
Small Business Economics
20: 1–4, 2003.
2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
There has long been an assumption in most
International Business literature, that firms inter-
nationalize gradually, in an incremental manner,
after a period of domestic experience and growth.
A firm’s first steps are typically characterized as
reactive, resulting from unsolicited export orders.
This stream of literature assumes that firms are
well established in their domestic market before
Recently, scholars in the field of Entrepre-
neurship have questioned the universality of the
stage-theory explanation of firm internationaliza-
tion. They point to the inconsistency between the
stage theory and the empirical reality of a growing
number of entrepreneurially oriented firms, which
tend to adopt a global focus from their conception.
Not only do these new ventures lack a period of
gradual internationalization, but they also tend to
be small firms facing volatile markets with scant
experience and resources.
International Entrepreneurship, as a new field
of inquiry, appears to have drawn both from
International Business (traditionally focused on
larger firms) and from Entrepreneurship, which
primarily studies the entrepreneurial owner/
manager of small firms. Logically there is no
conceptual barrier to the fusion of these two fields:
larger firms can, in theory, act as entrepreneurs;
and smaller entrepreneurial firms can take advan-
tage of the vast opportunities of international
markets previously exploited almost exclusively
by larger firms.
To explore and develop this emerging area of
research, a pioneering, three-day conference was
held in September 2000 at McGill University, in
Montreal, Canada, under the joint auspices of
McGill’s Business and Management Research
Centre, and the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial
Studies. The conference brought together leading
scholars from international business, and from
small business/entrepreneurship, to stimulate
integration of research in what had previously
been widely divergent fields.
Selected papers were subjected to a rigorous
process of peer review and comments. Each was
revised extensively to incorporate and to reflect
the perspectives of other disciplines. The final
product is a series of leading-edge research papers
which are presented in this volume, as well as in
two other publications.
This collection opens with a study that tests
empirically the degree to which International
Entrepreneurship, as an emerging field of inquiry,
draws on selective theory essentials from
International Business and from Entrepreneurship.
Hamid Etemad and Yender Lee searched for the
evidence of fusion and cross-fertilization of each
field’s knowledge network. They report an accel-
erated emergence of International Entrepreneur-
ship as a field of research through the late 1980s
and 1990s, in terms of the number of scholarly
publications. They also point to an increasing
number of citations to works from both
International Business and Entrepreneurship, as
well as other fields. Their article sets the stage
for examination of more detailed issues rooted in
both International Business and Entrepreneurship.
Final version accepted on October 2, 2001
Faculty of Management
Canada H3A 1G5
Richard W. Wright
University of Richmond