Recent research in entrepreneurial ecosystems views entrepreneurs as the main actors within the systems of institutions and infrastructures. Focusing on the digital economy, this Center is interested in investigating how digitalization, i.e., leveraging the use of Internet technologies, has enabled entrepreneurs to operate beyond endowment of factors within a region. We are interested in understanding how entrepreneurs in regions faced with depopulation, (e.g., inner cities, or unfavourable endowment of factors can leverage the use of digital technologies and their digital infrastructures to start, grow, and sustain their businesses. First, access to Internet is a requirement to become a participant in the digital economy. Second, digital skills are essential to leverage digital technologies to engage in entrepreneurship in digital business. Third, governance of digital ecosystem impacts entrepreneurs’ ability to compete in the digital economy. Do regions faced with depopulation or unfavourable endowment of factors also fall behind in these three dimensions?
Since digitization, via Internet connections, does not happen simultaneously nor are they equally distributed throughout all regions, reserach should investigate what are some of the enablers or hurdles entrepreneurs face in these regions when starting their digital businesses. As the nurturing of digital skills are increasingly clustered toward where the successful digital entrepreneurs are, e.g., Ecole 42 and its 10,000 students in Silicon Valley learning computer coding 24/7 without paying tuition, how could potential entrepreneurs who are not in these regions find opportunities to start their digital businesses?
Although entrepreneurs have become the prominent focus of analysis in entrepreneurial ecosystems research, the role of regional and the federal governments cannot be ignored. From federal level initiatives of Smart Cities to local governments’ Development Funds, institutions remain an important player in the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystems in the digital economy. How effective are these new government initiatives in supporting entrepreneurs in regions that have faced economic challenges? Research on entrepreneurial ecosystems in the digital economy focuses mainly on the success stories of places like Silicon Valley, Boulder, Provo and has neglected places like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. These cities in the Rust Belt theoretically, if connected with the digital infrastructure, should support entrepreneurs of digital businesses. Can they? How about cities in the Manufacturing Belt, Steel Belt, Corn Belt, or the Great Plains?
The following research questions are worthy of investigating:
• Identify and examine the digital infrastructure and their affordability either directly or indirectly and its impacts on an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the digital economy. For example, how do Internet connection choices and costs impact entrepreneurs in a specific location in their digital start-ups and scaleups.
• Explain longitudinally how digital infrastructures make specific contributions or become obstacles to an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a regional digital economy. For example, how does the delay of last mile services impact the start, the growth, and the sustainability of digital businesses in a place?
• Address the abundance/lack of digital skills of the population in a place and explain how such levels of digital skills may result in enabling/hindering entrepreneurs in the digital economy. For example, the availability of government or NGO-sponsored classes on digital skills in a place and their impact on digital start-ups in that place.
• Compare and contrast place-based entrepreneurial ecosystems in the digital economy that are subject to similar factor endowments. For example, comparing two cities in the Rust Belt and explain their difference in digital infrastructure and digital skills and the subsequent entrepreneurial activities in these two cities?
• Chronicle the historical development of digital economy-specific policies in a region and trace its impact on the development on entrepreneurial ecosystem. Specifically examine the resilience/flexibility of institutions and their impact on hindering/promoting digital businesses. For example, what are some of the lasting impacts of non-digital technologies on entrepreneurial ecosystems development in the digital economy?
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Sloboda, B., Sussan, F., & Howard, T. (2018). The Rise of Digital Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Detroit: The Path of the Automobile Industry and Related Industries to Economic Prominence? A paper presented at the Southern Regional Science Association Conference, Philadelphia, PA, March 15-17, 2018.
Sussan, F. and Z. Acs (2017). Digital eEntrepreneurial Eecosystem . Small Business Economics, 49(1), 55-73.
Sussan, F., Sloboda, B., and & Hall, R. (2018), Is there a path from Sin City to Tech City? The Case for Las Vegas. In: O'Connor A., Stam E., Sussan F., Audretsch D. (eds) Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. International Studies in Entrepreneurship, vol 38. Springer. , Cham