Broadly, my studies are organized along two parallel research streams. The first one, developed in my dissertation, aims to propose a more dialogic vision of category-based evaluation, where language is presented as an active force that actors who are atypical within a given context - with respect to traits, features, characteristics, and behaviors - can leverage to influence how audiences interpret and make sense of them. More specifically, my research illuminates how individuals and organizations who do not comply with categorical standards can actively mobilize linguistic and structural narrative features to influence the evaluative process and mitigate against a negative evaluation. I primarily explore these dynamics in the context of platform-mediated marketplaces, studying crafters that operate on Etsy, the largest online digital marketplace for handmade items.
In familiarizing myself with the context, my attention was caught by the profound power asymmetries characterizing the relationship between platforms and the constellation of entrepreneurs populating their ecosystems. My second line of work, thus, is more phenomenon-based, and it seeks to capture, unpack, and frame from a conceptual standpoint some of the underlying dynamics of Platform Economy. My research advances a novel perspective that extends and enriches our understanding of entrepreneurship and strategy in the age of platforms, showing that while digital platforms create tremendous businesses opportunities, they also engender profound power asymmetries that constrain the firms dependent upon them and alter their competitive landscape.
Platform-Dependent Entrepreneurs: Power Asymmetries, Risks, and Strategies in the Platform Economy
Published in the Academy of Management Perspectives
Co-Authored with Martin Kenney
Online digital platforms organize and mediate an ever-increasing share of economic and societal activities. Moreover, the opportunities that platform-mediated markets offer not only attract enormous numbers of entrepreneurs, but also support the growth of entire ecosystems of producers, sellers, and specialized service providers. The increased economic and business significance of digital platforms has attracted an outpouring of studies exploring their general impact on entrepreneurial outcomes. Yet, this research has largely overlooked the power imbalance that entrepreneurs experience as members of the platform ecosystem and provided little guidance on how this enormous population of firms should compete within these ecosystems. Our analysis suggests that the conditions of engagement for platform entrepreneurs are so different from traditional entrepreneurship that these entrepreneurs are more usefully termed “platform-dependent entrepreneurs” (PDEs). Drawing upon Emerson’s power-dependence theory, we show that the power imbalance at the heart of the relationship between the platform and its ecosystem members is intrinsic to the economics and the technological architecture of digital platforms. We undertake a conceptual analysis of the sources of this power asymmetry, and we unravel the novel types of risk and uncertainty that emanate from this imbalance. Further, we explore the strategies that PDEs are developing to mitigate their dependence on these platforms. Finally, our study provides a framework for policy makers that are considering regulating platform-organized markets.
Something cool about atypicality, narratives, and market appeal
Job Market paper
2nd Revise & Resubmit at the Journal of Management
Co-Authored with Simone Ferriani
Extensive research shows that atypical actors who fail to abide by established contextual standards and norms are subject to skepticism and face a higher risk of rejection. Indeed, atypical actors combine features, behaviors, or products in unconventional ways, thereby generating confusion and instilling doubts about their propositions' legitimacy. Nevertheless, atypicality is often viewed as a precursor to socio-cultural innovation and a strategy to expand the capacity to deliver valued goods and services. Contextualizing the conditions under which atypicality is celebrated or punished has been a significant theoretical challenge for organizational scholars interested in reconciling this tension. Thus far, scholars have focused on audience-related factors or actors’ characteristics (e.g., status and reputation). Here, we explore how atypical actors can use narratives to counteract evaluative discounts by analyzing a unique collection of 78,758 narratives from crafters on Etsy, the largest digital marketplace for handmade items. Using a combination of topic modeling, automated textual analysis, and econometrics, we show that actors with atypical product offerings who evoke conventional features in their narratives are more likely to overcome illegitimacy discounts. Moreover, more abstract language simplifies classification and provides audience members with more flexibility to interpret and understand what is being communicated.