Digital affordances, spatial affordances, and the genesis of entrepreneurial ecosystems

Erkko Autio, Satish Nambisan, Llewellyn D.W. Thomas, Mike Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

759 Citations (Scopus)


Research Summary: Entrepreneurial ecosystems command increasing attention from policy makers, academics, and practitioners, yet the phenomenon itself remains under‐theorized. Specifically, the conceptual similarities and differences of entrepreneurial ecosystems relative to, for instance, clusters, “knowledge clusters,” regional systems of innovation, and “innovative milieus” remain unclear. Drawing on research on industrial districts and agglomerations, clusters, and systems of innovation, we suggest that entrepreneurial ecosystems differ from traditional clusters by their emphasis on the exploitation of digital affordances; by their organization around entrepreneurial opportunity discovery and pursuit; by their emphasis on business model innovation; by voluntary horizontal knowledge spillovers; and by cluster‐external locus of entrepreneurial opportunities. We highlight how these distinctive characteristics set entrepreneurial ecosystems apart from other cluster types, propose a structural model of entrepreneurial ecosystems, summarize the articles in this special issue, and suggest promising avenues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-95
JournalStrategic Entrepreneurship Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • architectural knowledge
  • business model innovation
  • digital affordance
  • entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • spatial affordance
  • start-up


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