Integration and Cospecialization of Emerging Complementary Technologies by Startups

Production and Operations Management, Forthcoming

33 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2012

See all articles by Edward G. Anderson

Edward G. Anderson

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management

Geoffrey Parker

Dartmouth College

Date Written: May 25, 2012

Abstract

We analyze the market entry problem faced by startups that must integrate their service or product with one or more complementary technologies. The problem is especially challenging when the complementary technologies have large but uncertain cost reduction potentials. The market for intermittent renewable power generation (e.g., wind, solar) combined with storage (e.g., battery, pumped reservoir, flywheel) provides a motivating context. Renewable generation technologies are immature; thus storage startups face high risks when making R&D investments to integrate with them.

The entrepreneurship literature often suggests that startups should pursue focused strategies for various reasons, including bounded rationality and budget constraints. This literature generally overlooks startups entering markets with complementary technologies. The advice for mature firms investing in complementary technologies is often to diversify their investment across multiple complements to manage technological uncertainty. Given competing guidance, we seek to extend the entrepreneurship literature by modeling startups’ entry decisions for markets in which complementary technologies exhibit strong learning effects.

We find that, consistent with the extant entrepreneurship literature, startups generally achieve higher expected returns by channeling their integration investment to only one complementary technology. However, the mechanisms driving our results are very different from prior research findings and hinge primarily on nonlinear feedback effects that occur when firms concentrate integration investment in only one complementary technology. Interestingly, this focused strategy often does not yield the highest market share or the lowest likelihood of bankruptcy. We characterize the situations under which each finding holds and describe the implications of these findings for theory, practice, and policy.

Keywords: startups, entrepreneurship, complements, integration, learning curve, externalities, power storage, power generation, renewables

JEL Classification: O31, O32, M31

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Edward G. and Parker, Geoffrey, Integration and Cospecialization of Emerging Complementary Technologies by Startups (May 25, 2012). Production and Operations Management, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2083831

Edward G. Anderson (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management ( email )

CBA 5.202
Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-471-6394 (Phone)
512-471-3937 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ed@edanderson.org

Geoffrey Parker

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-9075 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/people/faculty/geoffrey-parker

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