Small Business Economics

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 55–73 | Cite as

The digital entrepreneurial ecosystem

  • Fiona SussanEmail author
  • Zoltan J. Acs


A significant gap exists in the conceptualization of entrepreneurship in the digital age. This paper introduces a conceptual framework for studying entrepreneurship in the digital age by integrating two well-established concepts: the digital ecosystem and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The integration of these two ecosystems helps us better understand the interactions of agents and users that incorporate insights of consumers’ individual and social behavior. The Digital Entrepreneurial Ecosystem framework consists of four concepts: digital infrastructure governance, digital user citizenship, digital entrepreneurship, and digital marketplace. The paper develops propositions for each of the four concepts and provides a theoretical framework of multisided platforms to better understand the digital entrepreneurial ecosystem. Finally, it outlines a new research agenda to fill the gap in our understanding of entrepreneurship in the digital age.


Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Matchmakers Digital infrastructure Digital governance Digital citizenship Multisided platforms Information technologies 

JEL classification

L26 011 P40 P00 



This paper draws on several research projects over the years that the authors have been involved in. We wish to thank Erkko Autio, Laszlo Szerb, Erik Stam, and Johnathan Levie who have contributed to previous projects on the topic of entrepreneurship ecosystems and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments. All errors remain ours.


  1. Acemoglu, D., & Johnson, S. (2005). Unbundling institutions. Journal of PoliticalEconomy, 113(5), 949–995.Google Scholar
  2. Acs, Z. J., Astebro, T., Audretsch, D., & Robinson, D. T. (2016). Public policy to promote entrepreneurship: a call to arms. Small Business Economics, 47(1), 35–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Acs, Z. J., & Audretsch, D. B. (1988). Innovation in large and small firms: An empirical analysis. American Economic Review, 78, 678–690.Google Scholar
  4. Acs, Z. J., Autio, E., & Szerb, L. (2014a). National systems of entrepreneurship: measurement issues and policy implications. Research Policy, 43(1), 476–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Acs, Z. J., de Groot., & Nijkamp, P. (2002). The emergence of the knowledge economy: a regional perspective. Spring, 2002.Google Scholar
  6. Acs, Z. J., Estrin, S., Mickiewicz, T., & Szerb, L. (2017). Institutions, entrepreneurship and growth: the role of national entrepreneurial ecosystems, SSRN, https://papers.Ssrn.Com/sol3/papers2.Cfm?abstract_id=2912453 January 2017.
  7. Acs, Z. J., Szerb L., & Autio, E. (2014b). Global entrepreneruship index, The GEDI Institute, Amazon, LLC.Google Scholar
  8. Aghion, P. (2017). Entrepreneurship and growth: lessons from an intellectual journey. Small Business Economics, 48(1), 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Armstrong, M. (2006). Competition in two-sided markets. RAND Journal of Economics, 37(3), 668–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Arrow, K. J. (1962). Economic welfare and the allocation of resources for invention. In R. R. Nelson (Ed.), The rate and direction of inventive activity (pp. 609–626). Princeton University Press: Princeton.Google Scholar
  11. Autio, E., Cleevely, M., Hart, M., Levie, J., Acs, S. J., & Szerb, L. (2012). Entrerpeneurial profile of the UK in the light of the global entrepreneurship and developmetnt index. London: Imperial College Business School.Google Scholar
  12. Autio, E., Dahlander, L., & Frederiksen, L. (2013). Information exposure, opportunity evaluation, and entrepreneurial action: an investigation of an online user community. Academy of Management Journal, 56(5), 1348–1371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Autio, E., Kenny, M., Mustar, P., Siegel, D. S., & Wright, M. (2015). Entrepreneurial innovation: the imortance of context. Research Policy, 43, 1097–1108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Autio, E., & Levie. (2015). Management of entrepreneurial ecosystems. London: Imperial College Business School.Google Scholar
  15. Autio, E., & Thomas, L. (2016). Tilting the playing field: Towards an endogenous strategic action theory of ecosystem creation. Forthcoming in. In S. Nambisan (Ed.), Open Innovation, Innovation Ecosystems, and Entrepreneurship: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. New Jersey: World Scientific Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Baller, S., Dutta, S., & Lanvin, B. (Eds.). (2016). The global information technology report 2016: innovating in the digital economy. Geneva: World Economic Forum.Google Scholar
  17. Baumol, W. (1990). Entrepreneurship, Productive, Unproductive and Destructive, Journal of Political Economy. Google Scholar
  18. Binham, C. (2016). UK regulators are the most fintech friendly. Financial times. Accessed December 30, 2016
  19. Caillaud, B., & Jullian, B. (2003). Chick and egg: competing matchmakers. RAND Journal of Economics, 34(2), 309–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Casson, M. (1982). The entrepreneur: an economic theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  21. Chandler, J. D., & Vargo, S. L. (2011). Contextualization and value-in-context: how context frames exchange. Marketing Theory, 11(1), 35–49.Google Scholar
  22. Coad, A., Frankish, J. S., Roberts, R. G., & Storey, D. J. (2016). Predicting new venture survival and growth: does the fog lift? Small Business Economics, 47(1), 217–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Coase, R. (1937). The nature of the firm. Economica, new series, 4(16), 386–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cooks, P., Urangs, M. G., & Etxebarria, G. (1997). Regional innovation systems: institutional and organizational dimensions. Research Policy, 26(4–5), 475–491.Google Scholar
  25. Cusumano, M. A., & Goeldi, A. (2013). New businesses and new business models. In W. H. Dutton (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of internet studies (pp. 239–261). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Daunfeldt, A. O., & Halvarsso, D. (2015). Are high-growth firms one-hit wonders: evidence from Sweden. Small Business Economics, 44, 361–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. de Moraes, J. A., & de Andrade, E. B. (2015). Who are the citizens of the digital citizenship? International Review of Information Ethics, 23, 11.Google Scholar
  28. Dexheimer, E., & Hamilton, J. (2016) The US will regulate some Fintech companies like traditional lenders. Bllomberg. Accessed 12.30.2016
  29. Dini, P., Iqani, M., & Mansell, R. (2011). The (im) possibility of interdisciplinary lessons from constructing a theoretical framework for digital ecosystems. Culture, theory and critique, 52(1), 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Edquist, C. (1997). Systems of innovation: technologies, institutions, and organizations. Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  31. Estrin, S., Korosteleva, J., & Mickiewicz, T. (2013). Which institutions encourage entrepreneurial growth aspirations? Journal of Business Venturing, 28(4), 564–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. European Commission, Enterprise and industry directorate-general, “strategic policy forum on digital entrepreneurship”, Brussels, 2017.Google Scholar
  33. Evans, D. S., & Schmalensee, R. (2016). Matchmakers: the new economics of multisided platforms. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.Google Scholar
  34. Florida, R. (2004). The rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  35. Haefliger, S., Jäger, P., & Von Krogh, G. (2010). Under the radar: industry entry by user entrepreneurs. Research Policy, 39(9), 1198–1213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hanseth, O., & Lyytinen, K. (2010). Design theory for dynamic complexity in information infrastructures: the case of building internet. Journal of Information Technology, 25(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
  37. Hayek, F. A. (1945). The use of knowledge in society. The American Economic Review, 519–530.Google Scholar
  38. Henfridsson, O., & Bygstad, B. (2013). The generative mechanisms of digital infrastructure evolution. MIS Quarterly, 37(3), 907–931.Google Scholar
  39. Henrekson, M., & Sanandjai, T. (2011). The interaction of entrepreneurship and institutions. Journal of Institutional Economics, 7(1), 47–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hilbert, M. (2011). The end justifies the definition: the manifold outlooks on the digital divide and their practical usefulness for policy-making. Telecommunications Policy, 35, 715–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hussain, A., Wang, H., & Nobakhti, A. (2010). Editorial: advances in complex control systems theory and applications. IET Control Theory & Applications, 4(2), 173–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Katz, M., & Shapiro, C. (1985). Network externalities. Competition and Compatibility, American Economic Review, 75, 424–440.Google Scholar
  43. Kirzner, I. (1973). Competition & entrepreneurship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Leibenstein, H. (1968). Entrepreneurship and development. American Economic Review, 58, 72–83.Google Scholar
  45. Li, W., Badr, Y., & Biennier, F. (2012). Digital ecosystems: challenges and prospects. In proceedings of the international conference on management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems (pp. 117–122). ACM.Google Scholar
  46. Lundvall, B. A. (1992). National systems of innovation: an analytical framework. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  47. Lusch, R. F., & Nambisan, S. (2015). Service innovation: a service-dominant logic perspective. Mis Quarterly, 39(1), 155–175.Google Scholar
  48. Mathews, C., & Brueggemann, R. (2015). Innovation and entrepreneurship. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Moore, J. F., (1993). Predators and prey: a new ecology of competition, Harvard Business Review, 71 30, 76.Google Scholar
  50. Moritz, 2015 The fall and rise of technology juggernauts, financial times. Accessed online June 1, 2016
  51. Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & McNeal, R. S. (2007). The internet, society, and participation. Boston: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Nelson, R. R. (1994). National innovation systems: a comparative analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. North, D. C. (1990). Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Ofer, G. (1987). Soviet economic growth: 1928-1985. Journal of Economic Literature, 25(4), 1767–1833.Google Scholar
  55. Parker, S. (2002). The economics of self-employment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Porter, M. (1990). The competitive advantage of nations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  57. Porter, M. (1998) Clusters and the new economics of competition. Harvard Business Review 76(6), 77–90.Google Scholar
  58. Read, S. (2016). Organic or deliberate: a comment on “Applying the ecosystem metaphor to entrepreneurship: uses and abuses”. The Antitrust Bulletin, 61(4), 574–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Read, S., Dew, N., Sarasvathy, S. D., Song, M., & Wiltbank, R. (2009). Marketing under uncertainty: the logic of an effectual approach. Journal of Marketing, 73(3), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rice, J. C., & Sussan, F. (2016). Digital privacy: a conceptual framework for business. Journal of Payments Strategy & Systems, 10(3), 260–266.Google Scholar
  61. Richter, C., Kraus, S., & Syrjä, P. (2015). The share economy as a precursor for digital entrepreneurship business models. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 25(1), 18–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rippé, C. B., Weisfeld-Spolter, S., Yurova, Y., & Sussan, F. (2015). Is there a global multichannel consumer? International Marketing Review, 32(3/4), 329–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rochet, J. C., & Tirole, J. (2004). Defining two-sided markets. Toulouse, France: mimeo, IDEI.Google Scholar
  64. Romer, P. M. (1990). Endogenous technological change. Journal of Political Economy, 98(5, Part 2), S71–S102.Google Scholar
  65. Rong, K., & Shi, Y. (2015). Business ecosystems, New York Sage Publishing.Google Scholar
  66. Rosenberg, N., & Nelson, R. (1993). Technical innovation and national systems. in R.R. Nelson, National Innovation Systems: A Comparative Analysis, Oxford, pp 3-22Google Scholar
  67. Salter, A. J., & McKelvey, M. (2016). Evolutionary Analysis of Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Sidney G. Winter—recipient of the 2015 Global award for entrepreneurship research. Small Business Economics, 47(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schumpeter, J. [1934 (1911)]. The theory of economic development, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Spigel, B. (2015). The relational organization of entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, in press.Google Scholar
  70. Shah, S. K., & Tripsas, M. (2007). The accidental entrepreneur: the emergent and collective process of user entrepreneurship. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1(1–2), 123–140.Google Scholar
  71. Shane, S., & Venkatraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review, 25, 217–226.Google Scholar
  72. Shaver, K. (2003). The social psychology of entrepreneurial behavior. In Z. J. Acs & D. B. Audretsch (Eds.), Handbook of entrepreneurship research: an interdisciplinary survey and introduction (pp. 331–358). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  73. Stabell, C. B., & Fjeldstad, Ø. D. (1998). Configuring value for competitive advantage: on chains, shops, and networks. Strategic Management Journal, 413–437.Google Scholar
  74. Stam, E. (2015). Entrepreneurial ecosystems and regional policy: a sympathetic critique. European Planning Studies. 1–11.Google Scholar
  75. Stam, E., & Spigel, B. (2015). Entrepreneurial ecosystems. Chapter for the SAGE Handbook for Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Google Scholar
  76. Stenholm, P., Acs, Z. J., & Wuebker, R. (2013). Exploring country level institutional arrangements on the rate and type of entrepreneurial activity. Journal of Business Venturing, 28(1), 176–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Stone, B. (2017). The upstarts: how Uber, Airbnb, and the killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are changing the world. Boston: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  78. Sussan, F. (2012). Consumer interaction as intellectual capital. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 13(1), 81–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Sussan, F., Gould, S., & Weisfeld-Spolter, S. (2006). Location, location, location: the relative roles of virtual location, online word-of-mouth (eWOM) and advertising in the new-product adoption process. NA-Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 33.Google Scholar
  80. Szerb, L., Acs, Z. J. Ortega-Argilés, R., & Komlosi, E. (2014). The entrepreneurial ecosystem: the regional entrepreneurship and development index (May 30, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://Ssrn.Com/Abstract=2642514 or
  81. Terjesen, S., Acs, Z J., Audretsch, D. B., Hechavarria, D., Stam, E., & White, R. (2017). Entrepreneurial ecosystems: the search for performance, Small Business Economics, this issue.Google Scholar
  82. Terranova, T. (2000). Free labor: Producing culture for the digital economy. Social text, 18(2), 33–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Tilson, D., Lyytinen, K., & Sørensen, C. (2010). Research commentary-digital infrastructures: the missing IS research agenda. Information Systems Research, 21(4), 748–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2004). Evolving to a new dominant logic for marketing. Journal of Marketing, 68(1), 1–17.Google Scholar
  85. Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2008). Service-dominant logic: continuing the evolution. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  86. Vicente, M. R., & Gil-de-Bernabé, F. (2010). Assessing the broadband gap: from the penetration divide to the quality divide. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 77, 816–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Von Hippel, E. (2006). Democratizing innovation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  88. Webster Jr., F. E., & Lusch, R. F. (2013). Elevating marketing: marketing is dead! Long live marketing! Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41, 389–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Weitzman, M. L. (1970). Soviet postwar economic growth and capital-labor substitution. The American Economic Review, 60(4), 676–692.Google Scholar
  90. Williamson, O. E. (2000). The new institutional economics: taking stock, looking ahead. Journal of Economic Literature, 38(3), 595–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Winter, S. G. (2016). 6 in “The Economics that Might Have Been”. Small Business Economics, 47(1), 15–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Zittrain, J. L. (2006). The generative internet. Harvard Law Review, 2006, 1974–2040.Google Scholar
  93. Zittrain, J. (2008). The future of the internet—and how to stop it. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Advanced StudiesUniversity of PhoenixTempeUSA
  2. 2.Schar School of Policy and, GovernmentGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

Personalised recommendations