Bengt G. Mölleryd
Stockholm School of Economics
Department of Marketing, Distribution and Industry Dynamics
S-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden
This paper analyses the role of entrepreneurship in the development of mobile telephony in Sweden 1950-1995. During this development, mobile telephony-which is being defined as a technological system-grows from primarily being a local business to being an international business, which is why we divide the development into three phases: local, national/Scandinavian and international. The basic question which is raised is how the entrepreneurial functions transform over time, as the technological system gains momentum.
By defining three different forms of entrepreneurship-the individual, the company, and the network-it enables me to discuss the balance, as well as conflict, between the heroic theory of entrepreneurship and social theory, where the entrepreneurial function is more of a collective endeavour.
Furthermore, a technological system is in focus including not only physical artefacts, but also organizations, distribution, regulation, standardization bodies, the government since technological systems are socially constructed and society shaping. This means that over time different kinds of innovations-technical, organizational and market-are needed for the technological system to solve structural tensions, and to develop further.
My paper is based on a case study methodology. All data has been generated through a large number of interviews with people in key positions in the Swedish mobile telephony industry. Besides interviews, the main data source constitutes different kinds of written information from various sources. The analysis is carried out by my classifying the identified entrepreneurial activities into one of the three entrepreneurial forms; entreprenurship is defined in accordance with Schumpeters notion of new combinations, as well as Hultén's and Mattsson's two additional categories: a new type of marketing, and a new distribution channel, Moreover, the entrepreneurial activities are also analysed according to whether it is a question of technological related, organising or market related innovations.
As the technological system gains momentum and heavily expands, the role of the individual as entrepreneur changes from someone mainly carrying out technological related innovations to being more of a marketing entrepreneur. This could be explained by the fact that before the technique has been designed, there is room for an individual entrepreneurship, but when the technique becomes more complex, it is instead productive companies and networks which become responsible for the entrepreneurship.
The extent of the entrepreneurial activities vary over time; in the local phase mobile telephony is still a limited business, while the most frequent entrepreneurship takes place during the national/Scandinavian phase when a Swedish mobile telephone industry is being established.
Companies as entrepreneurs are playing major roles in the other two phases. In the national/Scandinavian phase, those companies are being responsible for technique and market oriented activities as well as organising entrepreneurship. Networks as entrepreneurs operate entrepreneurship in all three phases, which means that we find technical innovations in all three phases, as well as we find market innovations in the national/Scandinavian and the international phase.
Sweden, together with a few Swedish companies, have succeeded in having the edge over others regarding the wireless industry, even though the development has hardly been a result of one certain strategy; it has instead been dynamic forces which have made mobile telephony one of Sweden's strongest development blocks. One implication of this might be that policy makers and business leaders stimulate and support development work carried out by individuals, while they simultaneously promote this by the help of initiatives taken by companies and networks, in order to form the development of technological systems.