Filthy Lucre? Innovative Communities, Identity, and Commercialization

Organization Science, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2011 Last revised: 18 Jul 2016

See all articles by Ethan R. Mollick

Ethan R. Mollick

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School

Date Written: July 10, 2016


Online communities play an increasingly important role in developing new innovations. However, relatively little is known about the ways in which community affiliation may change the incentives to commercialize those new innovations. By examining Open Source Software (OSS) as an example of an innovation community, and using both a quasi-experiment and a longitudinal survey, I seek to shed light on this issue. In the quasi-experiment using the launch of the Apple App Store, I find a lower propensity towards commercialization among individuals associated with online community innovation. I then examine the mechanisms for this lower commercialization with a novel longitudinal survey of entrepreneurial activity among OSS community members. Despite the history of OSS as an anti-commercial community, I do not find that anti-commercial attitudes play a role in commercialization decisions. Instead, differences in self-identity between community-based innovators and entrepreneurs have large significant effects on the propensity to commercialize innovations. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for both the literatures on entrepreneurial identity and community innovation.

Keywords: Commercialization, Motivation, Entrepreneurship, Free Software, Open Source, Floss, Structural, iPhone, innovation communities, open innovation

Suggested Citation

Mollick, Ethan R., Filthy Lucre? Innovative Communities, Identity, and Commercialization (July 10, 2016). Organization Science, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Ethan R. Mollick (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

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