Three Studies on Cultural Entrepreneurship and Crowdfunding: We’ve Got Your Back, The Legitimacy Threshold Revisited, and Four Pathways Towards Cultural Resonance

  • Author / Creator
    Soublière, Jean-François
  • The primary goal of this doctoral thesis is to advance knowledge on the processes by which entrepreneurial actors gain and maintain the support of their audiences, such as resource providers. Theoretically, my research contributes to the growing body of work on the cultural dynamics of entrepreneurship and strategic innovation. Empirically, my work focuses on the dynamic interplay between actors and their audience of backers on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. The three studies presented in this thesis all tackle this same theme in unique ways.

    In the first study, I ask, how do actors maintain the support of their audiences when they encounter important setbacks, and what role do their audiences play in shaping the support that actors receive? Using an in-depth, qualitative case study methodology, I retrace the journey of the very first major crowdfunding success story. Whereas prior studies suggest that audiences merely assess actors’ attempts to (re)gain their support, I suggest that audiences actively participate, too, offering accounts of what transpired to shape how others respond to setbacks. This study contributes by offering a fuller conceptualization of audiences in entrepreneurial processes, by
    illuminating the role of emotions in shaping the support that endeavors receive, and by providing rich and detailed insights into the emergence of crowdfunding platforms.

    In the second study, I ask, how does the legitimacy conferred on entrepreneurial endeavors affect the legitimacy of subsequent ones? I extend the notion of a “legitimacy threshold” to develop
    and test a recursive model of legitimacy. I test my hypotheses by examining 182,358 endeavors pitched within 165 categories over a six-year period on Kickstarter, one of the most important
    crowdfunding platforms. I show that individual outcomes, taken collectively, generate legitimacy spillovers, either by encouraging audiences to repeatedly support other related endeavors or by
    discouraging them from doing so. This research contributes to understanding the recursive nature of legitimacy, the competitive dynamics of entrepreneurial efforts, and crowdfunding platforms.

    In the third and last study, I ask, how do entrepreneurial actors imbue their endeavors with meaning when achieving cultural resonance is problematic, i.e., when actors and their audiences
    share poorly overlapping cultural repertoires? Recognizing that the meaning-making of actors and that of their audiences may not always align, I theorize four pathways by which cultural resonance may be achieved: anchoring, steering, retooling, and seeding efforts. Extending optimal distinctiveness research, I argue that each pathway entails a distinct strategic tension that actors must skillfully manage. I then develop propositions explaining how and when actors may do so.

    I conclude this thesis by discussing the overall significance of these three studies, as well as directions for future research. Theoretically and empirically, my thesis challenges the dominant
    wisdom that entrepreneurship and strategic innovation are technology-driven activities, and casts such efforts as fundamentally cultural undertakings.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Strategic Management and Organization
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)