Analysis of the evolution of the theories behind studies dedicated to a company´s internationalization



The main purpose of this article is to analyze the evolution of the theories behind studies related to any company’s internationalization. To do this, we conducted a bibliographic review of the state of research on the subject in peer-reviewed journals and related books. References are made to the concept of internationalization, and a panoramic and systematic review is performed of literature available on theories related to the gradual process of internationalization and to other more aggressive approaches that speak of ‘non-gradual’ or ‘accelerated’ processes of internationalization. The analysis is complemented with different approaches to - or models for - a company’s internationalization that we felt contributed to the task at hand. The review of this literature is pertinent from a historical perspective since much of the current work on companies’ internationalization has been developed in contexts where the prevailing policy at the global level tended towards the liberalization of trade and not towards protectionism. Recent studies analyzed in this article have duly highlighted the need to adapt the course of a company’s internationalization to a more dynamic, systemic and uncertain environment. Ultimately, we examine how determined companies have achieved positive exporting experiences and what are the theoretical bases that explain such phenomena.


Internationalization theories, Export firms, Exports


Aaby, N. E., & Slater, S. F. (1989). Management influences on export performance: A review of the empirical literature 1978-88. International Marketing Review, 6(4), 7-26.

Aguilera, R. V., Ciravegna, L., Cuervo-Cazurra, A., & Gonzalez-Perez, M. A. (2018). Multilatinas and the internationalization of Latin American firms. Journal of World Business, 52(4), 447-460.

Aldrich, H. (1999). Organizations evolving. Sage Publications.Alonso, J. A. (1994). El proceso de internacionalización de la empresa. Información Comercial Española, Vol. 725, 127–143.

Alvarez, F. E., Buera, F. J., & Lucas, R. E. (2013). Idea flows, economic growth, and trade. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Anderson, E., & Gatignon, H. (1986). Modes of Foreign Entry: An Transaction Cost Analysis and Propositions. Journal of International Business Studies, Fall, 2–26.

Araya, A. (2009). El Proceso de Internacionalización de Empresas. Tec Empresarial, 3(3), 18–25.

Atkin, D., Khandelwal, A. K., & Osman, A. (2017). Exporting and Firm Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics,132(2), 551–615.

Autio, E. (2005). Creative Tension: The Significance of Ben Oviatt’s and Patricia McDougall’s Article ‘Toward a Theory of International New Ventures’. Journal of International Business Studies, 36(1), 9-19. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from

Bell, J., McNaughton, R., Young, S., & Crick, D. (2003). Towards an Integrative Model of Small Firm Internationalization. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 1(4), 339–362.

Bembom, M., & Schwens, C. (2018). The role of networks in early internationalizing firms: A systematic review and future research agenda. European Management Journal, 36(6), 679–694.

Bilkey, W. J., & Tesar, G. (1977). The export behavior of smaller-sized Wisconsin manufacturing firms. Journal of International Business Studies, 8(1), 93–98.

Brenes, G., & León, F. (2008). Las Born Global: Empresas de Acelerada internacionalización. Tec Empresarial, 2(2), Pág. 9–19. Retrieved from

Buckley, P. & Casson, M. (1981), The Optimal Timing of a Foreign Direct Investment. The Economic Journal, 91, 75-87.

Buckley, P., & Casson, M. (1979). A theory of international operations. In J. Chertman & J. Leontiades, European Research in International Business.

Buckley, P. J., & Casson, M. (1991). The Future of the Multinational Enterprise. McMillan, New York.

Calof, J., & Beamish, P. (1995). Adapting to Foreign Markets: Explaining Internationalization. International Business Review, 4(2), 115-124.

Carneiro, J., Bamiatzi, & V., Cavusgil, S.T. (2018). Organizational slack as an enabler of internationalization: The case of large Brazilian firms, International Business Review, 27(5) 1057-1064.

Cavusgil, S. T. (1980). On the Internationalization Process of Firms. European Research, 8(November), 273–281.

Cavusgil, S. T., & Zou, S. (1994). Marketing strategy-performance relationship: An investigation of the empirical link in export market ventures. Journal of Marketing, 58(January), 1–21.

Chetty, S. K., & Hamilton, R. T. (1993). Firm-level determinants of export performance: A metaanalysis. International Marketing Review, 10(3), 26–34.

Ciravegna, L., Kundu, S. K., Kuivalainen, O. & López, L. E. (2019). The timing of internationalization – Drivers and outcomes. Journal of Business Research, 105(C), 322–332.

Clerides, S. K., Lach, S., & Tybout, J. R. (1998). Is learning by exporting important? Micro-dynamic evidence from Colombia, Mexico, and Morocco. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 113(3), 903–947.

Coviello, N. E. (2018). The Network Dynamics of International New Ventures. In International Entrepreneurship (pp. 175–215). Springer.

Crick, D., & Jones, M. V. (2000). Small High-Technology Firms and International High-Technology Markets. Journal of International Marketing, 8(2), 63–85.

Cuervo-Cazurra, A. (2011). Internationalization process. In Kellermanns, F., & Mazzola, P. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Strategy Process (pp.432-451). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Czinkota, M. R. (1982). Expon Development Strategies: U.S. Promotion Policy. Praeger Publishers.De Loecker, J. (2007). Do exports generate higher productivity? Evidence from Slovenia. Journal of International Economics, 73(1), 69–98.

Driscoll, A. & Paliwoda, S. J. (1997). Dimensionalizing International Market Entry Mode Choice. Journal of International Management, 13, 57-87.

Dubini, P., & Aldrich, H. (1991). Personal and extended networks are central to the entrepreneurial process. Journal of Business Venturing, 6, 305-316.

Dunning, J. H. (1981). International Production and the Multinational Enterprise. George Allen & Unwin.

Dunning, J. H. (1988). The Eclectic Paradigm of International Production: A Restatement and Some Possible Extensions. Journal of International Business Studies, 19(1), 1-31.

Dunning, J. H. (1992). Multinational enterprises and the global economy. Addison-Wesley.

Dunning, J. H. (2001), The Eclectic (OLI) Paradigm of International Production: Past, Present and Future. International Journal of the Economics of Business, 8(2), 173-190.

Duque, P., Meza, O., Zapata, G. & Giraldo, J. (2021). Internacionalización de empresas latinas: evolución y tendencias. Económicas CUC, 42(1), 122–152.

Erramilli, M. K., & Rao, C. P. (1993). Service firms’ international entry-mode choice: A modified transaction-cost analysis approach. The Journal of Marketing, 19–38.

Freeman, S., Edwards, R., & Schroder, B. (2006). How smaller born-global firms use networks and alliances to overcome constraints to rapid internationalization. Journal of International Marketing, 14(3), 33–63.

Gabrielsson, M., Kirpalani, V. M., Dimitratos, P., Solberg, C. A., & Zucchella, A. (2008). Born globals: Propositions to help advance the theory. International Business Review, 17(4), 385–401.

Handley, K., & Limao, N. (2015). Trade and investment under policy uncertainty: Theory and firm evidence. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 7(4), 189–222.

Harrison, A., & Rodríguez-Clare, A. (2010). Trade, foreign investment, and industrial policy for developing countries. In Handbook of development economics (Vol. 5, pp. 4039–4214). Elsevier.

Hennart, J. F. (2014). Accidental Internationalists: A Theory of Born Global. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 38(1), 117-135.

Holmlund, M., & Kock, S. (1998). Relationships and the internationalization of Finnish small and medium-sized companies. International Small Business Journal, 16(4), 46–63.

Hurtado-Torres, N. E. (2002). La PYME y las estrategias de internacionalización: Factores determinantes de su actitud frente a la exportación. Universidad de Granada.

Johanson, J. & Mattson, L.G. (1987). Interorganizational Relations in Industrial Systems: A Network Approach Compared with the Transaction-Cost Approach. International Studies of Management and Organization, 17(1), 34-48.

Johanson, J. & Vahlne, J.-E. (1990). The Mechanism of Internationalization. International Marketing Review, 7(4), 11-24.

Johanson J., & Vahlne J.-E. (2015) The Uppsala Internationalization Process Model Revisited: From Liability of Foreignness to Liability of Outsidership. In: Forsgren M., Holm U., Johanson J. (eds) Knowledge, Networks and Power. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.-E (2009). The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: From liability of foreignness to liability of outsidership. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(9), 1411–1431.

Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.-E. (1977). The Internationalization Process of the Firm—A Model of Knowledge Development and Increasing Foreign Market Commitments. Journal of International Business Studies, 8(1), 23–32.

Johanson, J., & Wiedershein, P. (1975). The internationalization Process of the Firms: Four Swedish Case Studies. Journal of Management Studies, 305–322.

Knight, G. (1996). Born global. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing.

Knight, G.A. & Cavusgil, S. T. (1996). The Born Global Firm: A challenge to traditional Internationalization Theory. Advances in International Marketing, 8, 11-26.

Lages, L. F. (2000). A conceptual framework of the determinants of export performance: Reorganizing key variables and shifting contingencies in export marketing. Journal of Global Marketing, 13(3), 29–51.

Lopez, L., Kundu, S. & Ciravegna, L. (2009). Born global or born regional? Evidence from an exploratory study in the Costa Rican software industry. Journal of International Business Studies, 40, 1228–1238.

Madsen, T. K., & Servais, P. (1997). The internationalization of Born Globals: An evolutionary process? International Business Review, 6(6), 561–583.

Martinez, M. (1997). Causas de la internacionalización de las empresas: Un estudio aplicado a pequeñas y medianas empresas de la provincia de Alicante. Instituto Jean Gil-Albert, Diputación Provincial de Alicante.

McDougall, P., Shane, S., & Oviatt, B. (1994). Explaining The Formation of International New Ventures: The Limits of Theories from International Business Research. Journal of Business Venturing, 9, 469–487.

McManus, J. C. (1971). The Theory of the Multinational Firm. In G. Pacquet (Ed.), The Multinational Firm and the Nation State (pp. 66-93.). Don Mills.

Oviatt, B. M., & McDougall, P. P. (1994). Toward a Theory of International New ventures. Journal of International Business Studies, 25(1), 45–64.

Oviatt, B. M., & McDougall, P. P. (2005). Defining International Entrepreneurship and Modeling the Speed of Internationalization. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice,29(5), 537–553.

Pla, J. (1999). Filiales y Entradas en los Mercados Internacionales. Factores Determinantes. Revista de Economía Aplicada, 8(20), 29–51.

Poblete, C., & Amorós, J. E. (2013). Determinantes en la Estrategia de Internacionalización para las Pymes: El Caso de Chile. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, 8(1), 97–106.

Rialp, A. & Rialp, J. (2005), Las Formas Actuales de Penetración y Desarrollo de los Mercados Internacionales: Caracterización, Marcos Conceptuales y Evidencia Empírica en el Caso Español, Claves de la Economía Mundial, 5ª Ed., ICEX, Madrid, pp. 98-108.

Rialp, A., Rialp, J., & Knight, G. A. (2005). The phenomenon of early internationalizing firms: What do we know after a decade (1993-2003) of scientific inquiry? International Business Review, 14(2), 147–166.

Rugman, A. (1986). New Theories of the Multinational Enterprise: An Assessment of Internalization Theory. Bulletin of Economic Research, 38(2), 101-118.

Shamsie, J., Phelps, C., & Kuperman, J. (2004). Better late than never: A study of late entrants in household electrical equipment. Strategic Management Journal, 25(1), 69–84.

Sharma, D. D., & Blomstermo, A. (2003). The internationalization process of born globals: A network view. International Business Review, 12(6), 739–753.

Suárez-Ortega, S.M. (2005). SMEs’ internationalization: firms and managerial factors. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research,11(4), 258-279.

Tiwari, S. K., Sen, S., & Shaik, R. (2016). Internationalization: A Study of Small Firms from Emerging Markets. Journal of Developing Areas, 50(6), 355–364.

Turnbull, P. (1987). A challenge to the stages theory of the internationalization process. In P. Rosson & S. Reid, Managing export entry and expansion (pp. 21-40.).

Vahlne, J. E., & Johanson, J. (2013). The Uppsala model on evolution of the multinational business enterprise – from internalization to coordination of networks. International Marketing Review, 30(3), 189-210.

Vahlne, J. E., & Ivarsson, I. (2014). The globalization of Swedish MNEs: Empirical evidence and theoretical explanations. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(3), 227-247.

Vahlne, J. E., & Johanson, J. (2017). From internationalization to evolution: The Uppsala model at 40 years. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(9), 1087–1102.

Vahlne, J. E., & Johanson, J. (2020). The Uppsala model: Networks and micro-foundations. Journal of International Business Studies, 51(1).

Wach, K. (2021). The evolution of the Uppsala model: Towards non-linearity of internationalization of firms. International Entrepreneurship Review, 7(2), 7-19.

Welch, L. & Loustarinen, R. (1988). Internationalization: Evolution of a Concept. Journal of General Management, 14(2), 34-55.

Wiedersheim-Paul, F., Olson, H. C., & Welch, L. S. (1978). Pre-export activity: The first step in internationalization. Journal of International Business Studies, 9(1), 47–58.

Williamson, O. E. (1975). Markets and Hierarchies. Analysis and Antitrust Implications. A Study in the Economics of Internal Organization.

Yamin, M., & Kurt, Y. (2018). Revisiting The Uppsala Internationalization Model: Social Network Theory and Overcoming the Liability of Outsidership. International Marketing Review, 35(1), 2–17.

Zhang, M., & Tansuhaj, P. S. (2007). Organizational Culture, Information Technology Capability, and Performance: The Case of Born Global Firms. Multinational Business Review, 15(3), 43-78.

Zou, S. & Stand, S. (1998). The determinants of export performance: a review of the empirical literature between 1987 and 1997. International Marketing Review, 15(5), 333-356.

Zuchela, A. (2002). Born Global versus Gradually Internationalizing Firms: An Analysis Based on Italian Case. Paper proposed to be presented in the 28th EIBA Conference 2002, in the special session “SME internationalization and born globals - different European views and evidence”.