The digital entrepreneurial ecosystem


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.

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  1. 1.

    Reinventing the Company. Economist Magazine, October 24, 2015.

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    This trend is reflected in the continuing decline in the cost of computing, the rise of open-source software, the move to the “cloud” and the emergence of huge datacenters where companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook are designing their own approaches.

  3. 3.

    Fifteen companies that were together worth less than $10 billion in 2000 are now among the world’s 50 top technology companies as measured by market capitalization, with a combined who of $2.1 trillion. Had Amazon been included this number would have swollen by another $250 billion (Moritz 2015).

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    The strategy literature acknowledges different forms of value logic (Stabell and Fjeldstad 1998) that extends Porter’s value chain logic of the firm and presents new ways of looking at firm creation approaches and different underpinning economic logics for firm creation (knowledge and network economic principles).

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    Some will call this a business ecosystem that is not bounded by space.

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  7. 7. October 25, 2015

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    We use the concept system of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystem interchangeably in this paper.

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    Digitization is the technical process, whereas digitalization is a socio-technological process of applying digitization techniques to broader social and institutional contexts that render digital technologies infrastructure (Tilson et al. 2010 p.3)

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    At the end of 2016, Facebook had 1.9 billion active users. Snapchat that went public in 2017 had 158 million users, who spent an average of 30 min each day on the site, with an average of 18 visits per day, creating $2.5 billon of them are under 25 years of age. Snap IPO tests unsocial network, The Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2017 p. A8.

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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.

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Correspondence to Fiona Sussan.

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Sussan, F., Acs, Z.J. The digital entrepreneurial ecosystem. Small Bus Econ 49, 55–73 (2017).

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

JEL classification

  • L26
  • 011
  • P40
  • P00