How to identify entrepreneurs online

The entrepreneurs of the future can be identified. They have a high status among others, an extensive network and the ability to drive debates and needs which are not met by the existing solutions and products offered by businesses. This is the conclusion of new research on corporate online communities. The research is published in Academy of Management Journal.

2013.04.04 | Andreas Glenstrup Jensby

While online communities have long been the subject of innovation research, Professor Lars Frederiksen from Aarhus University and two international colleagues have taken the issue one step further. The researchers have looked at what sorts of people not only generate good ideas, but go all the way and take entrepreneurial action.

- Entrepreneurs have a special ability to observe, for example how other people solve a problem or overcome inexpediencies, perhaps an anomaly. They then evaluate a possible solution to the problem and assess whether they themselves or others may be able to manufacture a product or turn the solution into a business opportunity. Via their community, the entrepreneurs try to assess possible solutions and actual demand for a product or service, says Lars Frederiksen.

The findings, which have just been published in one of the world's leading management journals, Academy of Management Journal, identify the mechanisms which drive the evaluation of entrepreneurial opportunities and entrepreneurial action in the form of the start-up of a business.

Building an ecosystem around core product
Lars Frederiksen and his two co-authors have analysed data from an online community established by the Swedish music software company Propellerhead in 2011 to provide users with a forum for communicating, solving problems and developing new ideas.

- The new businesses sell products which usually build on Propellerhead's products. They create new applications and potentially increase demand for Propellerhead's own products. And so the new businesses contribute positively to boosting the network effects for the existing supply of products, he explains.

Businesses can no longer do it alone
Lars Frederiksen generally believes that developments within the social media and networking and sharing sites are making it difficult for businesses to remain sole developers of their products. Today, people develop their own solutions, take out patents and start up businesses when the opportunity arises.

- Rather than working against this trend, businesses can get much more out of inviting innovators and entrepreneurs to engage in discussions and joint development within the framework of new types of organisations such as online communities. In this way, they share the innovation burden. If a business chooses to ignore the potential offered by these platforms, potential stakeholders may simply set up other fora offering the business even less insight and access, says Lars Frederiksen.

About the study

  • Professor Lars Frederiksen and his two co-authors have analysed data from an online user community launched by the Swedish software company Propellerhead in 2011.
  • The researchers have studied four main questions: 1) who starts new discussions in the online community, 2) what is the status of people in the group and how much attention do they get, 3) how many communities are they part of, i.e. their relations and networks, and 4) how much do they explore/monitor technological developments.
  • Moreover, the research is based on responses from 280 members of Propellerhead's online community who have completed a questionnaire as well as 42 interviews with Propellerhead employees and users of their online community.

 

For further information

Lars Frederiksen, Professor with special responsibilities in Innovation Management
Department of Business Administration
Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences
M: +45 5360 8842
E: l.frederiksen@asb.dk

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