Rethinking Coopetition: Communication as an Alternative Framework for Business Startup

Hannah Clair Drain, University of Colorado at Boulder


As a result of shifting labor relations and a changing economy, seed accelerators have taken center stage in the development of entrepreneurs and startups. However, current research is unclear on the ways that startups participating in these accelerators negotiate tensions regarding the need to cooperate with other teams in the accelerator and the drive to compete to "get ahead" of other teams in the program. This simultaneous existence of cooperation and competition is called "coopetition." This qualitative case study investigates the tensions of cooperation and competition in seed accelerators, with a particular emphasis on aspects of trust and identity as they are worked out in practice. Using Grounded Practical Theory, the researcher developed a theoretical reconstruction o f the problem domain of coopetition, from this data emerged two normative ideals emerged from the data (1) business as sense-making; and (2) "it is what it is."