The Role of Embeddedness of Migrant Start-ups in Local Entrepreneurial Ecosystems During the COVID-19 Crisis


  • Judith Terstriep Westphalian University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen
  • Alexandra David Westphalian University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen
  • Alexander Ruthemeier Steinbeis Institute for Global Entrepreneurship
  • Maria Elo University of Southern Denmark



migrant entrepreneurship, migrant start-ups transnationalism, translocal embeddedness COVID-19, crisis, entrepreneurial ecosystem


As with all start-ups, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a changing environment for migrant start-ups. These changes have posed many challenges to altering strategic behaviour and approaches to driving business. We explored migrant start-ups’ embeddedness in entrepreneurial ecosystems by analysing data from 14 semi-structured interviews with start-ups from Berlin's knowledge-intensive business services sector. We argue that the success of migrant start-ups during crises is dependent mainly on the embeddedness in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Thus, we expect entrepreneurs to utilise local networks, infrastructures and interactions to help them cope with the challenges and pave the way for local and international business activities. Our results indicate that embedding in local entrepreneurial ecosystems and a sense of belonging, especially during the business formation phase, play a vital role for migrant start-ups in general and crisis. Revitalising the concept of local embeddedness while considering business development stages, this study challenges the prevailing notion of transnational networks as the sole determinant of entrepreneurial success. Instead, we advocate for greater recognition of the significance of accessing local resources, including market knowledge, social relationships, and institutional support, as fundamental factors driving business development and crisis management within the host country. By recognising and nurturing these local resources, policymakers and support organisations can create an enabling environment that empowers migrant start-ups to thrive, adapt, and contribute to the local EE and economic wealth.

Author Biographies

Judith Terstriep, Westphalian University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen

Dr Judith Terstriep (Economist) – is Head of the Research Department »Innovation, Space & Culture« at the Institute for Work and Technology at the Westphalian University Gelsenkirchen and lecturer at the Ruhr-University Bochum. She has long-term experience in innovation research. Primary research interests involve the interplay of innovation, (social) relations and knowledge from the perspective of innovation, management and spatial theory contributing to just transitions and societal change. Focal work areas cover social innovation measurement, entrepreneurship, regional development, sustainable transformative and mission-oriented innovation policy, and sectoral and regional analyses. Judith is well-experienced in coordinating European, national and regional joint projects and has been appointed an expert by the European Commission, federal ministries and various foundations. She received her doctorate from TU Hamburg.

Alexandra David, Westphalian University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen

Dr Alexandra David is a senior researcher on Migration, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Westphalian University, Institute for Work and Technology (IAT). After her communication science studies at the University Duisburg-Essen (GER) and economic studies at the Distant University in Hagen (GER), she wrote her PhD in sociology at the University of Twente (NL) while working at the IAT as a researcher and as a consultant in Bern (CH). She has advised the German Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government on migrant entrepreneurship and was part of the Ashoka Hello Europe round table on migrant and refugee accelerator development. She is a founding member of a regional think tank on migrant entrepreneurship in the Ruhr Area.

Alexander Ruthemeier, Steinbeis Institute for Global Entrepreneurship

Alexander Ruthemeier. Founding Director of Steinbeis Institute for Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation, began his career in Financial Services before he moved from Singapore to Berlin, working for Rocket Internet, wefox and Element among others. As a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of Expatrio and DEGIS, he is also pursuing his academic path by researching and teaching about Migrant Entrepreneurship.

Maria Elo, University of Southern Denmark

Maria Elo, associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, professor at the BRIIB Institute of International Business at Shanghai University, Senior Fellow, University of Turku, and adjunct professor at Åbo Akademi University works in the area of international business, -entrepreneurship and -migration with topics such as internationalization, human stickiness, resources of skilled migrants and returnees, migrant and diaspora entrepreneurship, transnational and family businesses, diaspora networks in international business, diaspora investment and remittances. She has published books and articles, for example, in Journal of World Business, Journal of International Management, Journal of International Business Policy, Industrial Marketing Management, Regional Studies, Journal of International Entrepreneurship and International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.


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How to Cite

Terstriep, J., David, A., Ruthemeier, A., & Elo, M. (2023). The Role of Embeddedness of Migrant Start-ups in Local Entrepreneurial Ecosystems During the COVID-19 Crisis. Journal of Comparative International Management, 26(1), 1–34.



Research Articles