My research explores strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship in technology-based industries. In particular, I want to know how managers and entrepreneurs identify opportunities in nascent environments and how they build businesses in order to capture them. I rely on both formal and simulation modeling tools as well as case study research, and am interested in the role that various research methodologies play in developing sound organizational theory. 

ENTREPRENEURIAL STRATEGY

With Kathleen Eisenhardt: How Firms Navigate Cooperation and Competition in Nascent Ecosystems. Forthcoming, Strategic Management Journal.
Despite a wealth of research on competitive and cooperative strategy, gaps remain with respect to how firms successfully navigate cooperation and competition over time. This is especially true in ecosystems, in which firms depend on one another to collectively provide components and thus create value for consumers. Through an in-depth multiple case study of five firms in the US residential solar industry from 2007-2014, we induct a theoretical framework that explains how firms navigate nascent ecosystems over time. We identify three strategies, each with a distinct balance of cooperation and competition as well as unique advantages, disadvantages, and required capabilities. Overall, we contribute to research on ecosystem strategy, crystallize the pivotal role of bottlenecks, and shed light on the dynamic interplay of cooperation and competition.

With Robert Bremner and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Resource Redeployment in Business Ecosystems. Advances in Strategic Management, 2016. [Paper Link]
Prior research examines the value of resource redeployment across product markets in multi-business firms. In contrast, redeployment across ecosystem components has received little empirical attention. To address this research gap, we illustrate resource redeployment in an entrepreneurial firm the US residential solar industry. Through this case study, we propose that the determinants and mechanisms of resource redeployment value are fundamentally different when resources are redeployed across ecosystem components instead of product markets. Whereas product market redeployment is driven by a returns logic, ecosystem component redeployment provides a means with which firms can acquire complementary component knowledge and relieve ecosystem bottlenecks. We develop a theoretical framework that describes these logics and propose a set of conditions under which the value of resource redeployability across ecosystem components is greatest. In doing so, we contribute to research on resource redeployment and strategy in business ecosystems.

With Henning Piezunka: Getting Ahead by Falling Behind: A Set Theoretic Model of Search-Based Competition. Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, TIM Division, 2014. Working Paper. [Paper Link]
Firms must frequently compete against competitors who have superior resources. Existing research however emphasizes the importance of resources, and has examined how firms attain, benefit, and defend positions of resource superiority. But how can firms succeed if they are unable to differentiate their resource base? To address this question, we present a formal set theoretic model that depicts two firms competing to identify and capture valuable opportunities. In contrast to prior research, we find that firms can actually benefit when their competitors develop superior resources, even in the absence of spillovers between the firms. Moreover, firms that become resource-inferior may actually prefer to remain so; catching up to a competitor by adding a similar set of resources is optimal only under a narrow set of conditions. In this paper, we illuminate a means by which resource-inferior firms can compete against resource-superior competitors, and explore the role of attention as a differentiating strategy in search-based competition.

Cooperative Strategy and Value Capture in Innovation Ecosystems. Working Paper.
This paper examines collaborative strategy in ecosystems, which are settings wherein firms depend on one another to provide the components that together comprise valuable solutions. Prior research has identified the importance of collaborative strategy to allow firms to create value, but has not systematically identified or compared different collaborative strategies. This paper addresses this gap by identifying two archetypal strategies: improving partner capabilities, and collaboratively introducing systemic innovations. Each strategy carries unique advantages and disadvantages with respect to how value is created and captured. Through a formal mathematical model (specifically, a biform game), we examine when, for whom, and with whom these strategies are effective. We also reveal several surprising insights. Overall, we contribute insight into ecosystems, bottlenecks, and the emergence of kingpins.

With Shi Ying Lim. Entrepreneurial Entry into Established Ecosystems: An investigation of digital health entrepreneurs. Data analysis.
The goal of this project is to examine how entrepreneurs enter and succeed within established ecosystems, which are networks of interdependent firms that produce products or services that together comprise a valuable whole. Prior work on entry into ecosystems 1) highlights the importance highlights the importance of coordinating partners in order to create value in nascent ecosystems, and 2) identifies the characteristics of attractive positions in established ecosystems. But less is known about how firms can coordinate partners in established ecosystems. In particular, how and when can entrants reconfigure or reassemble existing participants in order to create additional value while simultaneously carving out a valuable new niche for themselves? We examine this question in the context of the health care coordination ecosystem, a context characterized by highly regulated and institutionalized relationships between incumbents such as hospitals, physicians groups, and insurance companies. In particular, we examine the processes by which various entrepreneurs identified potential roles, coordinated with potential partners, and shaped niches in order to carve out viable positions within the ecosystem.

RESEARCH METHODS

With Kathleen Eisenhardt and Ron Tidhar: The Value of Formal Models for Management Research. Working paper. [SSRN Link]
Formal mathematical models are a powerful approach to building theory, but are under-utilized in the management literature. In this paper, we clarify how mathematical models contribute to theory building. Through an extensive review of the published modeling literature, we contribute a framework that describes theory development using formal modeling, and position formal modeling with respect to other theory-building methods such as verbal theory, computational simulation, and inductive case studies. Strengths of formal modeling include internal validity, precision, and transparency. Overall, the core value of the method lies in its ability to illuminate causal mechanisms, reconcile conflicting theories, unpack complex relationships, and generate counter-intuitive insights. We offer insights to readers of modeling research, as well as producers.

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.
— Zora Neale Hurston, 1942
If we knew what it was we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?
— Albert Einstein