Abstract

The operational environments of virtual entrepreneurial firms offer unique opportunities that may not be evident in physical/ brick and mortar contexts. Sweeping developments in information and communication technologies, ease of information flows, and low cost access to technological tools have led to radical changes in the opportunities available to entrepreneurs and their exploitation methods as well (Roberts, 2001). However, not much is known about the nature and dynamics of the online entrepreneurial ecosystem or if and how it promotes novel interactions. In particular, virtual entrepreneurs that choose to host their business on a common cybermediary platform may experience greater sense of identity, shared values, and membership due to their shared online environment. This sense of virtual community may give rise to mutually beneficial firm behaviors whereby support of other businesses becomes the norm in contrast to entrepreneurial firms existing in physical environments which tend to view other firms competitively. We integrate the literatures on sense of virtual community (Blanchard, 2007), virtual/ e-word of mouth (Kozinets, 1999), online social capital (Williams, 2006) and e-community support (Rothaermel & Sugiyama, 2001) to answer the research question: What are the virtual community correlates of mutually beneficial entrepreneurial behavior?

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