Zineb AOUNI – CERMi – Université Libre de Bruxelles Anaïs PERILLEUX – Univesité Catholique de Louvain Marek HUDON, CERMi – Université Libre de Bruxelles
Who is prizing hybrid new ventures within equity crowdfunding platforms: The external audience categorization perspective.
Within crowdfunding platforms, social new ventures are advised to signal their entrepreneurial orientation to communicate persuasively to potential investors. This is particularly important within crowdfunding platforms suggesting monetary returns to investors. However, previous studies have examined the importance of signalling for acquiring resources within the crowdfunding channel, but have largely overlooked how combining social and commercial missions is perceived by external stakeholders. Building on the categorization research, we suggest a heterogeneity in stakeholder’ evaluation about hybrid new ventures. Our approach recognizes that signalling is influencing external stakeholder expectations. However, we suggest that expectations about hybrid new ventures are likely to reflect to varying degrees the stakeholders’ personal goals and prior knowledge about the commercial and the social categories. Based on this, we argue that the growing demographic of socially and environmentally conscious individuals within society is opening a huge potential for hybrid new ventures within monetary financing channels such as equity crowdfunding platforms. To test this theory, we analysed equity crowdfunding members’ categorization and evaluation processes of a factious hybrid new venture. The experiment was introduced within the equity platform WedoGood in France, dedicated to impact investments. We find that hybrid new ventures are categorized differently according to the equity crowdfunding members’ prior knowledge (vanguards vs. mass-audiences) about the social and the commercial categories. While vanguards categorize hybrids either as social or commercial ventures, mass-audiences categorize them in the intersection of the two categories. Crowdfunding member’s salient personal goals (pro-social vs. financial) and the way hybrids are categorized act in conjunction to exert a systematic impact on the stakeholder evaluation about hybrid new ventures. Hybrids’ positive evaluation is most important for mass-audiences with multiple goals, especially when the focal categories are perceived as having ambiguous meanings. The negative judgements about hybrids are increased when one of the focal categories (social or commercial) is stigmatized by the equity crowdfunding member.