Special Issue Call
Hype and Entrepreneurship: Expectations, exaggerations and misrepresentations
GUEST EDITORS: (alphabetical order)
· Raghu Garud, Penn State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
· Nelson Phillips, University of California, Santa Barbara (email@example.com)
· Yuliya Snihur, Toulouse Business School (firstname.lastname@example.org)
· Llewellyn D. W. Thomas, IESE Business School (email@example.com)
· Charlene Zietsma, Penn State University (Charlene.Zietsma@psu.edu)
We seek theoretical and empirical papers (both qualitative and quantitative) that examine the implications of hype for entrepreneurship. While hype has been studied extensively in other domains (e.g., science, technology, financial markets, or real estate),
it remains undertheorized in the entrepreneurship literature. Yet, hype impacts entrepreneurship in important and complex ways. First, it emerges because of excessive publicity through self-promotion, media reporting, and other sources about venture ideas, technologies, and business models, often based on exaggerated entrepreneurial claims bordering on or based on misrepresentation—i.e., promises by entrepreneurs that they cannot keep. This, in turn, impacts entrepreneurs over time, as their framing must keep up with earlier exaggerations and misrepresentations. In other words, hype is both a cause and consequence of entrepreneurial activities. Second, hype impacts all the new ventures in an emerging industry that share ideas, technologies, and business models. Consequently, hype has both venture-level and industry-level effects. Third, hype implicates other ecosystem members who legitimize ventures and provide them with resources and attention, often enabled by digital technologies. The provision of resources and attention amplifies already inflated expectations and further promotes unrealistic promises. On some occasions, such inflated expectations and unrealistic promises become increasingly difficult for the entrepreneurs to fulfill, thereby raising moral issues.
These issues are particularly trenchant today given the rising number of high-profile fraud cases that have come to light, such as Theranos, WeWork, or Ozy Media. These firms have promoted business models encompassing ‘embodied innovations’ (Theranos), ‘digitally enabled innovations offering physical spaces’ (WeWork) and ‘digitally fueled simulacra’ (Ozy Media). Entrepreneurship research and practice would benefit from theoretical explanations about and empirical investigation into when, how, and why hype cycles emerge and dissipate, resulting in situations where entrepreneurial framing can trigger misrepresentations and accusations of fraud.
Entrepreneurs jumpstart their ventures by offering future-oriented projections and by inviting others to support and join their efforts (Garud et al., 2014b; Snihur et al., 2021; Wood et al., 2021). However, entrepreneurs may overpromise what they can deliver, as audiences such as venture capitalists expect entrepreneurs to make bold forecasts (Kahneman and Lovallo, 1993). As others such as incumbents, regulators, media, users, and scientists join the bandwagon, a sense of inevitability often develops around venture ideas, technologies, and business models, even though fundamental uncertainty remains (Borup et al., 2006; Brown and Rappert, 2000). More new ventures are encouraged to enter (Zietsma et al., 2018) and entrepreneurs then build their frames around the hype that emerges, thereby fueling the cycle (Garud et al., 2019; Logue and Grimes, 2022; van Lente et al., 2013).
As hype-cycles emerge and dissipate, entrepreneurs may find themselves compelled to further exaggerate their claims and promises to gain and maintain legitimacy from diverse audiences (Fisher et al., 2017; Snihur et al., 2021). Over time, it can become increasingly difficult for the entrepreneurs to fulfill their promises, exaggerated in the first place or because of misrepresentations. When such possibilities transpire, the entrepreneurs may be accused of committing fraud, and their ventures risk collapse. The collapse of one venture can spread to others that share cultural and material resources with the focal firm, and the hype is deflated.
While hype cycles have emerged in the past, e.g., dot.com, electric vehicles, space tourism (Goldfarb & Kirsch, 2019), they are more likely to occur in today’s digital world. First, digital technologies possess the property to “informate” (Zuboff, 1988); that is, the use of digital technologies ends up producing more information in their use ("prosumption," Toffler, 1970). This is most visible on social media, where actors relentlessly amplify what anyone says, as in an echo chamber (Toubiana and Zietsma, 2017). Second, digital technologies make it possible for social influencers who are prosumers to engage in “diffraction” (Barad, 2003); that is, they amplify certain points of view given the abundance of data. Because of prosumption and diffraction, exaggerated claims and misrepresentations go viral via social and regular media, and the hype that develops generates excitement yet remains volatile, as is evident in multiple cases such as IBM’s Watson computing, cryptocurrencies, and blockchains, just to name a few.
Clearly, moral issues are involved with hype (Anderson and Smith, 2007; Rutherford et al., 2009). It is easy to see the moral issues when entrepreneurs exaggerate and misrepresent to jumpstart their ventures (e.g., Momtaz, 2021), especially when there is ambiguity about emergent categories, and when stakeholders expect the entrepreneurs to “fake it until they make it.” But even if entrepreneurs do not intend to “fake it until they make it,” stakeholders may expect entrepreneurs to make “bold forecasts” (Kahneman and Lovallo, 1993), leading them to slide into morally questionable framing activities. For instance, anticipatory claims about disruptive innovations constituted by the promises that entrepreneurs make may be difficult to fulfill. When they encounter challenges, and to the extent that they decide to pivot (Berends et al., 2021; Grimes, 2018; Snihur and Clarysse, 2022), entrepreneurs may end up delivering something quite different from what they had originally promised (Garud et al., 2014a; Hampel et al., 2020; McDonald and Gao, 2019), thereby raising moral questions.
Considering the above, several issues are particularly relevant. For instance, given the availability of financing, meta narratives about unicorns inspire bold forecasts about the disruption of existing ecosystems by the entrepreneurs. Fueling the hype around such bold forecasts are social media platforms powered by digital technologies with the affordances for the instantaneous spread of ideas (Fischer and Reuber, 2014). As hype-cycles emerge and dissipate, entrepreneurs and other ecosystem members may experience excitement during the upswing of a hype-cycle, and depression and gloom during a downswing (Garud et al., 2019), which impacts their well-being (Wiklund et al., 2019). Especially when the survival of their ventures is at stake, entrepreneurs may engage in morally questionable risk-seeking behaviors (March and Shapira, 1987). In sum, gaining a better understanding of hype and entrepreneurship is overdue.
We encourage submissions that focus on one or more of the areas below, although this list is not exhaustive.
● How do hype cycles emerge in entrepreneurial fields? What kinds of ‘expectations work’ by the entrepreneurs and the others are involved? What are the multi-level dynamics that unfold between the entrepreneurs and the ecosystems within which ventures operate?
●How do the performative settings within which entrepreneurs operate impact the prevalence and dynamics of the hype-cycle that emerges?
●How does entrepreneurial decision making around venture ideas based on new technologies and exotic business models affect hype?
●How does hype affect entrepreneurial decision making especially in the presence of fundamental uncertainty and ambiguity?
●What are the moral implications of hype and entrepreneurial overpromising for entrepreneurs, their customers, partners, investors, and employees?
●What is the role of emotions in constituting hype cycles and the decisions that entrepreneurs and others make fueling hype cycles, potentially resulting in venture collapse?
●What is the role of media and digital technologies in enabling and sustaining hype cycles, for instance by amplifying exaggerated claims and misrepresentations on social media?
SUBMISSION PROCESS AND DEADLINES
· Submissions should be prepared using the JBV Manuscript Preparation Guidelines.
· Papers will be reviewed according to the JBV double-blind review process.
· The deadline for submission is June 1, 2023, although we encourage earlier submissions.
·Informal enquiries relating to the Special Issue, proposed topics, and potential fit with the Special Issue objectives are welcomed.
· If a paper is rejected (either as a desk reject or in the normal review process) because of insufficient quality, and a reject and resubmit decision is not granted by the guest editors of the special issue, then the submitting authors may NOT submit that paper again to JBV as a normal article.
PAPER DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP
In the interest of maximizing submission quality, prospective authors for the special issue are invited to submit an extended abstract (deadline, February 6, 2023; please email directly to Yuliya Snihur at firstname.lastname@example.org) for discussion at an online workshop to be held on Zoom on February 27, 2023, beginning at 10 am EST. The guest editors will host roundtable sessions in an interactive format where the extended abstracts will be discussed. Workshop participation does not guarantee acceptance of a paper in the Special Issue, nor is it required for a paper to be considered for publication
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