The subject of this article is the inheritance of the parent university of academic spin-offs through imitation and entrepreneurial learning. Building on a capability perspective, the article adds to the literature on university spin-offs and presents insights into the academic spin-off phenomenon that may be useful in supporting academic entrepreneurship. The study is based on four universities, all located in the metropolitan area of Milan. The authors followed the start-up processes of 74 spin-off ventures over the period 2004–2013, obtaining economic data for 61 of the ventures. The analysis we carried out shows that parent universities influence the industry distribution of spin-offs, since most spin-offs showing a positive performance were concentrated in industries that (1) could benefit from the most advanced research of the parent university and (2) were those in which previous start-ups had also tended to concentrate. Thus, a focus on the parent (university)–progeny (spin-off) dyad as the unit of analysis reveals that the specific capabilities available and previous spin-off experience developed in the university play an important role in facilitating spin-off ventures and influencing new firms’ behaviour in their start-up and development phases.
- academic spin-off