The Role of Boundary Organizations in Collaborations between Incumbent Firms and Start-ups
This paper investigates how boundary organizations enable and assist collaborations between incumbent firms and start-ups. This particular type of inter-organizational collaborations is puzzling, in that on the surface they are potentially fruitful for both parties, yet difficult to build and manage, and frequently result in a fiasco. Through a field study on an open innovation programme involving a former venture accelerator, an established leader company in the fashion industry, and a group of high-tech start-ups, this paper illustrates three processes through which boundary organizations enable and assist collaborations at the boundary between incumbent firms and start-ups, across organizational as well as disciplinary boundaries: (i) cross-domain framing work, (ii) misaligned translation work, and (iii) collective orchestration work. Our analysis also delineate the implications of such processes for the collaborating firms which, in turn, facilitate the execution of experimental collaboration projects, and lead to the emergence of new business opportunities. Our findings promote a dynamic, processual view of the morphing role of boundary organizations in inter-organizational collaborations, and have implications for theory and future research on boundary organizations, collaboration processes between incumbent firms and start-ups, and the emerging role of accelerators in open innovation.