Understanding how capital markets affect the growth and survival of newly created firms is perhaps the central question of entrepreneurial finance. Yet, much of what we know about entrepreneurial finance comes from firms that are already established, have already received venture capital funding, or are on the verge of going public—the dearth of data on very-early-stage firms makes it difficult for researchers to look further back in firms’ life histories. Even data sets that are oriented toward small businesses do not allow us to measure systematically the decisions that firms make at their founding. This article uses a novel data set, the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS), to study the behavior and decision-making of newly founded firms. As such, it provides a first-time glimpse into the capital structure decisions of nascent firms.
In our paper, The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we use the confidential, restricted-access version of the KFS, which tracks nearly 5,000 firms from their birth in 2004 through their early years of operation. Because the survey identifies firms at their founding and follows the cohort over time, recording growth, death, and any later funding events, it provides a rich picture of firms’ early fund-raising decisions.