The internal workings of how overseas intermediaries serve to accelerate the evolution process of start-ups remain in a ‘black box’ in the current literature on international entrepreneurship. This paper uses qualitative research methods and the “complex adaptive system” concept to explore interactions between Taiwan’s overseas start-up intermediary, the Taiwan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC), and three Taiwanese start-ups to examine the evolution process and the role played by TIEC in each start-ups’ emergence.
Our results show that: (1) self-organizing behavior—such as reshaping the business model, reconfiguring various resources, and re-connecting with networks—are the keys to a start-up's successful emergence in the international market; (2) market-oriented activities act as an attractor for actors in different levels of the complex adaptive system; (3) the role of an overseas start-up intermediary is to act as a catalyst for the emergence of a start-up’s internationalization. This study contributes to the extant literature on international entrepreneurship by both proposing and providing evidence of the role of overseas start-up intermediaries. We also outline practical management implications and provide policy suggestions for emerging economies that wish to accelerate the evolution and internationalization of their start-ups.