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This paper aims to extend our understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of academic startups (ASUs) and other new technology-based firms (NTBFs). First, relying on insights from the resource- and competence-based theories of the firm and the literature on social networks and financial economics, we identify the factors that might differentiate ASUs and other NTBFs. Then, we combine the results of prior studies on NTBFs and the evidence from four theory-building case studies of Italian ASUs to formulate a series of empirically testable hypotheses that relate to the differences between ASUs and other NTBFs as to the extent and nature of the initial funding and knowledge gaps, and the strategies that firms adopt to close them. Our analysis suggests that ASUs' major relative strengths reside in the lower initial funding gap and greater investments in technical activities. Conversely, ASUs' major weakness consists of the lack of commercial knowledge: ASUs suffer from greater initial gaps in this field and encounter serious obstacles in implementing effective strategies to close them. The paper also offers original insights relating to the impact of the appropriability regime of technology on the financing and alliance strategies of ASUs as opposed to those of other NTBFs. More specifically, when the appropriability regime is weak, ASUs' choices as to the characteristics of external investors and alliance partners, and the organisation of the relations with them are influenced by the desire to mitigate appropriability hazards. Conversely, appropriability hazards have a smaller influence on the decisions of non-ASU NTBFs.