Virtual globals : marketspace and the internationalisation of small technology-based firms
This study explores the potential impact of the Internet's marketspace on the internationalisation specifics of small technology-based firms (STBFs) in Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany. Utilising a multi-method approach, this study identifies several impacts of using the location-insensitive marketspace on the location-sensitive internationalisation process of STBFs in the marketplace. In particular, it was found that attitudinal, resource-related, information-related and network-related aspects of internationalisation were positively influenced. These effects facilitated, sometimes even enabled, the internationalisation of STBFs. STBF's direction of internationalisation was also influenced. Especially the foreign market selection of younger STBFs that used the Internet prior to their internationalisation was increasingly influenced by marketspace-related factors, potentially signalling a marketplace to marketspace shift for younger STBFs. But despite these impacts this study also shows that the traditional location-sensitive marketplace still matters a lot. It is not substituted by the Internet's marketspace and the emergence of a new internationalisation mode. Also, the marketspace does not constitute a panacea in itself. The findings show that Internet use levels for international business matter rather than the mere adoption of this new technology. These use levels are in turn dependent on a firm's experience with the marketspace, dependent on Internet use at the industry and international business partner level and, more importantly, dependent on the STBFs' product and industry-sensitive business model. In particular, STBFs that can adopt an Internet-centric business model for their international operations profit from the facilitating characteristics of the marketspace. However, the incremental internationalisation process characterised by expanding international orientations, strengthening resources and capabilities, gains in operational experience and characterised by the gathering of international business information remains. Although earlier and faster than in the past - in parts due to the Internet's marketspace - and although starting at higher levels of initial commitment - due to pre-inception resources accumulated by STBFs' founders - internationalisation in the marketspace-age still follows an incremental path.