The role of network density and betweenness centrality in diffusing new venture legitimacy: an epidemiological approach

  • James M. BloodgoodEmail author
  • Jeffrey S. Hornsby
  • Matthew Rutherford
  • Richard G. McFarland


To survive and grow, new ventures must establish initial legitimacy, and subsequently diffuse this legitimacy through a given population. While the notion of initial legitimacy has received substantial attention in the recent literature, diffusion has not. This work endeavors to outline the legitimacy diffusion process via drawing parallels with the field of epidemiology. Ultimately, to effectively diffuse legitimacy (and grow) a firm must gain positive judgments of appropriateness from members of a given network. Importantly, as with diseases, the characteristics of the network are critical to the diffusion process. A relatively dense network is posited to invoke a normative evaluation process by its members, and can be difficult for new ventures to access, but subsequent diffusion of new venture legitimacy can be rapid. A less dense network, on the other hand, is posited to invoke a pragmatic evaluation process by its members, and is likely easier for new ventures to access initially, but may result in lower levels of new venture legitimacy diffusion in the long run. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


Legitimacy Diffusion Network density Epidemiology Betweenness centrality Legitimacy threshold 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • James M. Bloodgood
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeffrey S. Hornsby
    • 2
  • Matthew Rutherford
    • 3
  • Richard G. McFarland
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Management, College of Business AdministrationManhattanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Henry W. Bloch School of ManagementUniversity of Missouri–Kansas CityKansas CityUSA
  3. 3.School of EntrepreneurshipOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  4. 4.Department of MarketingESSEC Business SchoolCergy Pontoise CedexFrance

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