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Network Externalities, Incumbent’s Competitive Advantage and the Degree of Openness of Software Start-Ups

Stefano Colombo (), Luca Grilli () and Cristina Rossi-Lamastra ()

Computational Economics, 2014, vol. 44, issue 2, 175-200

Abstract: This paper proposes a formal model that analyzes the degree of openness chosen by start-ups when entering the software industry. In line with the literature, we label as degree of openness the extent to which software start-ups mix open source (OS) and proprietary solutions in the portfolio of software products they offer. We relate the choice of the degree of openness to two key characteristics of the market segments in which software start-ups operate: the strength of the network externalities and the competitive advantage of the incumbent. Specifically, by modelling (price) competition between an incumbent and an entrant in two ways, i.e., the entrant is price-setter or price-taker, we derive the necessary condition(s) in terms of the strength of network externalities for observing the adoption of a business model that comprises the offering of both proprietary and OS solutions by the entrant (i.e., hybrid business model). Then, we highlight that, if a hybrid business model is the choice, the degree of openness chosen in equilibrium increases along with both the strength of the network externalities and the competitive advantage of the incumbent. This result holds indifferently whether the software start-up is modelled as a price-setter or a price-taker. An empirical test run on a sample of European start-ups in the software industry supports these theoretical predictions. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Keywords: Open source; Software start-ups; Degree of openness; Network externalities; Incumbent’s competitive advantage; L13; L17; L86 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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DOI: 10.1007/s10614-013-9385-8

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