Abstract Technology-based entrepreneurs in Latin America face different institutional environments and have less access to knowledge and to technological resources than those in industrialized economies. Opportunity discovery and construction therefore follow also different paths. Results from a set of parallel case studies in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, explore some differences in terms of the role of available technological and market knowledge, and in terms of the entrepreneur’s background. It also explores strong similarities among these countries’ economic development, their R&D infrastructure, and their institutional environments. These similarities shape similar patterns in their entrepreneurs’ endeavours. These patterns have important public policy implications for promoting innovation in transitional economies.