Anchored Inferential Learning: Platform-Specific Uncertainty, Venture Capital Investments by the Platform Owner, and the Impact on Complementors
Forthcoming in Organization Science
45 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2019 Last revised: 4 May 2022
Date Written: March 8, 2019
Platform owners increasingly make corporate venture capital investments in complementors (e.g., app developers) to stimulate value creation, a practice we refer to as platform venture capital (PVC). Interested in the implications of PVC for other complementors, we investigate how PVC investments affect their product introduction and withdrawal decisions. Given that complementors confront platform-specific uncertainty concerning the strategic directions of the platform, which is asymmetrically set by the platform owner, we theorize that complementors leverage PVC investments as devices for anchored inferential learning. That is, because PVC investments are costly, visible, and consequential, complementors will infer them as credible indicators of the platform’s future focus. Consequently, we predict that complementors will seek out, and stick around, product categories of PVC investees. We further anticipate that these inclinations are weaker for complementors with greater platform ecosystem experience that place more emphasis on knowledge acquired via experiential learning, and stronger for complementors that center their business exclusively on the platform and therefore rely strongly on PVC to navigate platform-specific uncertainty. We provide quantitative evidence from the context of the Salesforce platform. Moreover, we draw on qualitative data from this context to unpack why complementors interpret PVC investments as a credible signal concerning the strategic direction of the platform. We highlight that complementors consider PVC as a form of middle-ground platform governance, where the platform owner is perceived as being committed to stimulating value creation in the platform ecosystem, while also inducing complementors to commit their efforts to the platform ecosystem.
Keywords: complementors, corporate venture capital, ecosystems, governance, learning, platforms, uncertainty
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