This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Entrepreneurial Impostor Phenomenon




Zafar, Sana

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Entrepreneurs are frequently considered confident, overconfident, or even hubristic. However, little is known about what happens when entrepreneurs feel like they do not belong in the entrepreneurship space. My dissertation builds an understanding of entrepreneurial impostor phenomenon – i.e., when entrepreneurs discount their abilities and believe that eventually others around them will see them as fake. In Study 1, I conduct a qualitative analysis involving interviews with 28 entrepreneurs. My findings from Study 1 inform the relationships I explore quantitatively in Study 2, using data from a sample of 232 entrepreneurs. Over three-fourths of the total sample of entrepreneurs (78.45%) surveyed for Study 2 indicated moderate to intense impostor feelings, suggesting that a large number of entrepreneurs frequently experience impostor phenomenon. My findings further reveal that impostor phenomenon in entrepreneurs can influence the way entrepreneurs gain access to resources via help-seeking and self-handicapping behavior. Lastly, my post-hoc analyses show that as impostor phenomenon in entrepreneurs increases, the likelihood that ventures led by these entrepreneurs receive no funding or only receive personal funding also increases, highlighting stronger effects for female entrepreneurs. Overall, by building an understanding of entrepreneurial impostor phenomenon and its effects on behavioral outcomes for entrepreneurs, my findings have implications for entrepreneurship research and practice.