We investigate whether appointing a middle management level affects startups’ innovation performance. Additional hierarchical levels are often suspected to restrict innovative activities. However, founders’ capacities for information processing and resource allocation are usually strongly limited while, at the same time, R&D decisions are among the most consequential choices of startups. We argue that middle management is positively related to introducing product innovations because it improves the success rates from recombining existing knowledge as well as managing R&D personnel. In addition, we suggest that the effectiveness of these mechanisms depends on the riskiness of a startup’s business opportunity. Based on a sample of German high-tech startups, we find support for our conjectures.


Grimpe, Christoph
Murmann, Martin
Sofka, Wolfgang


Middle management, innovation performance, R&D, startups, organizational design, R&D management