Harnessing Digital Technologies for Entrepreneurial Innovation

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Li, Ting
digital entrepreneurship , digital technologies , digital capabilities , startups , business incubators , university incubators , entrepreneurial innovation
This thesis, organized in a 3-paper format, explores the potential of digital technologies to support entrepreneurial innovation using a capability-based perspective. The fast emergence of powerful, readily accessible, and affordable new technologies has transformed the processes and outcomes of entrepreneurial innovation. Both startups and business incubators that support startups, as a result, require an up-to-date and nuanced understanding of how digital technologies can be leveraged to create business value in their respective contexts. In the first paper, a multilevel framework is inductively developed to explain how digitally-enabled influential factors at the ecosystem level shape innovation environments through business incubators; how startups carry out digitally-enabled entrepreneurial actions; and how business incubators and startups jointly form digitally-enabled intra-incubator action patterns to co-create innovation outcomes at the ecosystem level. Findings of this study confirm the saliency of digital enablement at all three analytical levels (i.e., entrepreneurial ecosystems, business incubators, and startups) and throughout the innovation processes. The second paper takes a mixed-method approach to explore the value of digital capabilities to startups. Using case data collected from 65 Canadian startups, this study inductively identifies four types of digital capabilities that are commonly developed and used by early-phase startups: digital platform capability, digital infrastructure capability, digital adaptation capability, and digital knowledge capability. Drawing on the insights derived, fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis was conducted to examine high-performing digital capability configurations for startups at the business validation and transition stages. The results show that the high-performing configurations differ from validation to transition, and that digital startups and their less-digital counterparts rely on different digital capability configurations to succeed. The third paper investigates further a key finding from the first paper – that is, today’s business incubators are being transformed from siloed support infrastructure to active resource orchestrators in entrepreneurial ecosystems. Specifically, this study examines the influence of dynamic digital capabilities on both the agility and performance of publicly-funded business incubators. The research framework is tested and supported using survey data. It is found that resource orchestration capabilities fully mediate the impact of dynamic digital capabilities on incubator performance, and partially mediate the latter’s impact on incubator agility.
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