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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Identities at work in developing a new market

Astner, Hanna; Gaddefors, Johan


PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to explore the roles of identities in entrepreneurial processes during the development of a new market. Two research questions are used: How do the founder's identity, corporate identity and market identity interact as a new market is developing, and what are the functions of identity in the entrepreneurial process?Design/methodology/approachThis qualitative research is grounded in a study of multiple cases, from which five Swedish start-ups have been selected. Interviews were conducted with the founders at several points in time and accompanied by observations of websites, media performance, policy documents and commercial material. Analysis was conducted in an iterative process between empirics and theory.FindingsThe findings show how identities develop in entrepreneurs, firms and the market and how the interactions between these three levels of identity affect the development of each. The authors recognize and discuss three functions of identity: a constructing function, in which identity is used to create a new firm and market; a guiding function, which navigates between identities by imposing identity work on founders, firms and markets; and a configuring function, which takes part in shaping contexts.Research limitations/implicationsThis paper opens a space for future research on identities to advance understandings of how new firms and markets are developed. Investigating identity shows the importance of context to entrepreneurial processes. This points towards a need for researching different contexts, but also to the potential limited value of this study.Practical implicationsThe paper offers guidance to founders and managers in understanding and navigating different identities. Founders and managers are provided with a set of critical questions, which aim to assist when managing identity-related concerns.Originality/valueThere is a vast amount of literature on the development of companies and markets, yet start-ups in new markets operate in different contexts and face different challenges that we know less about. This paper targets the latter and proposes identity as a useful lens for understanding the dynamics between entrepreneurs, start-ups and the new market.


Context; Entrepreneurial process; Identity work; Marketing; Market identity; Corporate identity

Published in

Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship
2021, Volume: 23, number: 1, pages: 1-23