Sequential Innovation by Start-Ups: Balancing Survival and Profitability
38 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 13, 2013
Start-up firms, which are by nature cash-constrained, often consider launching an immediately available product to generate funds for developing more advanced products. However, this release could have an adverse effect on the perception of the firm’s future products. A key decision for the start-up firm in such an environment is: when should the first product be released? In this paper we consider the product development and introduction decisions for a start-up which has a product that is ready to launch and is also developing a more advanced product, whose launch readiness is uncertain. We model the tradeoff between the adverse effect of a first version on overall profitability and the valuable stream of revenue it generates for R&D funding. We characterize an optimal policy with cash thresholds to determine when the firm should launch the first version and whether it should continue development. We derive managerial insights by studying these cash thresholds under various technological and market scenarios. Our analysis underscores a fundamental difference between how a start-up and an established firm view commercialization: a start-up would delay the launch of a good first version longer while an established firm (without bankruptcy considerations) would accelerate its launch.
Keywords: Sequential innovation, Entrepreneurship, New product development, Research and Development
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