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Crowdfunding: Platform Dynamics under Asymmetric Information

Michael Wessel

Publications of Darmstadt Technical University, Institute for Business Studies (BWL) from Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute for Business Studies (BWL)

Abstract: Platform ecosystems are a growing trend in various industries and many companies that rely on this organizational structure have seen unprecedented growth rates in recent years. Compared to traditional service providers, platforms do not offer products or services directly to their customers, but almost exclusively through complementors who develop and deliver complementary content. Platforms therefore create value by enabling and coordinating interactions between the demand and the supply side. As these platforms are two-sided markets, they are characterized by distinct cross-side network effects, meaning that each side of the market derives externalities from the participation of the respective other group. Crowdfunding platforms rely on this concept and facilitate transactions between individuals who seek funding for a specific project or venture and prospective investors. Crowdfunding platforms are, however, special as the transactions made via the platforms are particularly risky for end-users because of a high level of information asymmetry existing between the market sides. Though a certain level of information asymmetry exists between the distinct market sides in every two-sided market, a number of factors amplify this problem in the crowdfunding context. For instance, there is usually little to no publicly available information such as customer reviews to evaluate the investments ex-ante. The creators of crowdfunding campaigns are therefore able to overstate quality or withhold information as they control the flow of information towards potential investors. Furthermore, many of the projects that are published on crowdfunding platforms are still in their infancy, making it difficult to accurately predict project outcomes. Compared to other types of two-sided markets, the issue of information asymmetry is also more difficult to resolve in crowdfunding because mechanisms such as reputation systems that are frequently applied in other contexts to mitigate this issue are less relevant on crowdfunding platforms. The actual utility of crowdfunding projects is therefore difficult to ascertain at the time the investment decision has to be made and dynamics of crowdfunding are thus different from those in other platform settings. Many open questions still remain with respect to the optimal market design of crowdfunding platforms in order to mitigate information asymmetries. Against this backdrop, four research studies have been conducted to investigate how the behaviors and actions of the distinct groups of market participants (i.e., platform provider, project creators, backers) influence the decision-making of potential backers on crowdfunding platforms. The first study is concerned with the effects actions taken by platform providers can have for the decision-making of backers. More specifically, it is examined how relaxing the input control for crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter affected the decision-making of backers. The second and third study are concerned with the role of social buzz and contribution behavior by previous backers. While the second study is focused on the dynamic interplay of social buzz, prior-contribution behavior, and the respective effects on backer decision-making, the third study describes the repercussions of non-genuine social media likes for project creators. The final study is focused on the influence project creators can have on backers by signaling certain personality traits through their project description and video. Overall, this thesis highlights that, as a result of the high level of information asymmetry on crowdfunding platforms, prospective backers seek alternative information and signals to use for decision support in the face of uncertainty. Platform providers and project creators may use the results to better understand how and why certain actions or behaviors of market participants on crowdfunding platforms affect the decision-making of prospective backers. The findings may therefore help platform providers to optimize the market design of crowdfunding platforms in order to avoid information-related market failure in the long term.

Date: 2016-12-07
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-pay and nep-ppm
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