Constructing entrepreneurial markets for innovations: the emergence of e-commerce entrepreneurship in the south of England
Authors: Erdelyi, P.
Editors: Whitley, E.A.
This thesis examines how the disruptive innovation of e-commerce took hold among small retailers in the South of England in the first decade of the 21st century. It describes empirically how a regional business-to-business market—providing e-commerce business services (EBS) to retail start-ups and small firms—emerged and operated, and how the goods traded in this market were evaluated. This market can be defined as an entrepreneurial market for an innovation because the market goods (EBS) constitute an innovation to be adopted by micro-enterprises as means of production to enable them to retail their own goods online to consumers. The study investigates two practical problems that concern the construction and operation of entrepreneurial markets for innovations: 1) how small firms as buyers of productive means evaluate complex, intangible market goods (such as EBS), given their lack of resources for conducting such evaluations; and 2) how policy makers and market makers address the market failure that is perceived to hinder the emergence of entrepreneurial markets. At the same time, this research also addresses the theoretical issues of how to define entrepreneurship, innovation, and markets and how to conceptualise the relationships between them, by empirically tracing and articulating the connections between the activities, objects, and places that constitute these phenomena. Actor-network theory (ANT) was utilised as a research approach to study an e-commerce community across two English counties, using ethnographic methods to collect data via participant observation, interviews, and documents between 2006 and 2010. ANT's material-semiotic method was deployed to trace the emergence, transformations, and workings of the socio-material network of institutions, policies, and technical artefacts that have enabled the functioning of this regional entrepreneurial market for EBS. Industry events such seminars, workshops, and conferences emerged as important marketplaces for establishing—through various trials—the qualities of buyers, sellers, and the EBS.