Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2011.0459

Extant literature highlights the benefits accruing to a firm that obtains third-party certifications. Certifications provide reputational benefits that increase stakeholders' confidence in a firm's prospects, thereby increasing the firm's ability to garner critical resources. Yet the influences that certifications have on rivals remain underexamined. This study investigates how the scientific and regulatory certifications that a firm receives affect rivals' entries into a new technical field it pioneers. I demonstrate that certifications have a dual role in shaping an emerging competitive landscape: Whereas a pioneer's scientific and regulatory certifications attract competition by indicating value creation prospects, its certification advantage over rivals deflects competitive entries by indicating bleaker value capture prospects. This study also shows that the influences stemming from a pioneer's certifications diminish as the innovation it pioneers receives certifications, thus providing rivals with more direct cues about a new field's prospects. In contrast with prior research showing that the emergence of a new technical field carries drastic implications for rivals, this study highlights how social context guides rivals' responses to an otherwise disruptive change, thereby shaping the patterns of technological evolution.

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