Seeding the S-Curve? The Role of Early Adopters in Diffusion

34 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2016  

Christian Catalini

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 11, 2016

Abstract

In October 2014, all 4,494 undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were given access to Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency. As a unique feature of the experiment, students who would generally adopt first were placed in a situation where many of their peers received access to the technology before them, and they then had to decide whether to continue to invest in this digital currency or exit. Our results suggest that when natural early adopters are delayed relative to their peers, they are more likely to reject the technology. We present further evidence that this appears to be driven by identity, in that the effect occurs in situations where natural early adopters' delay relative to others is most visible, and in settings where the natural early adopters would have been somewhat unique in their tech-savvy status. We then show not only that natural early adopters are more likely to reject the technology if they are delayed, but that this rejection generates spillovers on adoption by their peers who are not natural early adopters. This suggests that small changes in the initial availability of a technology have a lasting effect on its potential: Seeding a technology while ignoring early adopters' needs for distinctiveness is counterproductive.

Keywords: early adopters, technology diffusion, adoption, bitcoin, blockchain

Suggested Citation

Catalini, Christian and Tucker, Catherine E., Seeding the S-Curve? The Role of Early Adopters in Diffusion (August 11, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2822729 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2822729

Christian Catalini (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-480
Cambridge, MA MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/faculty-and-research/faculty-directory/detail/?id=58777

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS) ( email )

100 Main St
E62-536
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cetucker.scripts.mit.edu

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