ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (6): 1205-1215.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01205

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The formation and development of entrepreneurial opportunities in the digital ecosystem: A social capital-based inquiry

DU Jing-jing, WANG Tao, HAO Xi-ling(), FENG Ting-ting   

  1. School of Business Administration, Anhui University of Finance and Economics, Bengbu 233030, China
  • Received:2021-10-04 Online:2022-06-15 Published:2022-04-26
  • Contact: HAO Xi-ling


In the era of the digital economy, new organizational forms such as bilateral and multilateral platforms, online communities, and ecosystems have emerged and upended mainstream theories of innovation management by calling into question fundamental assumptions and arguments. The new context also challenges the paradigm of “the individual-opportunity nexus” in entrepreneurial research. While existing research from the ecosystem perspective usually focuses on clusters at the macro-level or the meso-level, it tends to overlook micro-level actors, or small and medium-sized enterprises and their entrepreneurial activities as complementors on platforms. Meanwhile, the distribution, as well as the exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities, have also changed due to the affordance of digital technology, leaving a gap in our knowledge on the mechanisms of opportunity creation and exploitation by new ventures that tap into resources available in the ecosystem.
This study, therefore, develops the theoretical framework of “digital ecosystem characteristics-social capital-entrepreneurship opportunities” based on social capital theory as well as the affordance theory. Curious to understand how enterprises in a digital ecosystem can use ecosystem resources to accumulate social capital, this study measures the new characteristics of network behavior and relationship behavior of startups in a digital ecosystem with the three constructs of social capital, i.e., structural capital, relational capital and cognitive capital. This paper also explores the effects of social capital on the formation of opportunity beliefs of entrepreneurs under the desirability dimension of opportunities, which illustrates the startup process of how entrepreneurs transform “idea” into “action”. In addition, borrowing from the constructs of opportunity sets and opportunity portfolios from entrepreneurial research, the effects of social capital on the development of opportunity sets are also tested in the scale-up process. Finally, the moderating effects of the above paths are investigated from the cognitive monitoring of entrepreneurs and the digitization degree of new ventures.
The theoretical contributions of this paper are as follows: First, this paper extends the application of social capital theory in the context of digital entrepreneurship, adding to our knowledge on entrepreneurial opportunities. Second, new characteristics of entrepreneurial opportunities in the context of digital entrepreneurship are revealed through the measurement of “opportunity belief” and “opportunity set” in the digital ecosystem. Third, the boundary conditions of“the individual-opportunity nexus” are further clarified by the matching of entrepreneurs and opportunities in the digital ecosystem.

Key words: digital ecosystem, social capital, entrepreneurial opportunities, opportunity set, opportunity belief

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