"Challenges and Opportunities of Digitalization for Entrepreneurship" Workshop

What is digitalization’s wider impact on entrepreneurship? What role does entrepreneurship play in the digital age?

John Cabot University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship held the “Challenges and Opportunities of Digitalization for Entrepreneurship” workshop on Thursday, May 31. The workshop, organized by professors Riccardo Maiolini, Silvia Pulino, and Alina Sorgner, brought together international researchers, JCU faculty and students, entrepreneurs and those interested in the wider impact digitalization has on entrepreneurship.

Professor Riccardo Maiolini - Challenges and Opportunities of Digitalization for Entrepreneurship Workshop

Professor Riccardo Maiolini

Current developments in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning algorithms and cloud computing, which are driven by the improved availability of Big Data, open up enormous opportunities for entrepreneurship and business in the digital age. Entrepreneurs can exploit new digital technologies to enter developing markets, finance their business ventures, adopt new business models, target potential consumer, and better manage the administrative burden. At the same time, the digital transformation of labor markets represents a serious threat to workers who risk losing their jobs to machines. Entrepreneurship may represent a valuable career option for them. These developments mean that the value of human capital in the digital age must be re-evaluated.

JCU Marketing professor Alessandro Signorini presented Donapp, a mobile app he developed as a way to increase corporate social responsibility by allowing donors to use their smartphones to give to charities. Through Donapp, the customer can decide which charity to donate to independently. Signorini came up with the idea after seeing the online charity projects of websites like booking.com, where if you book a hotel, a part of the money you pay will go to a partner charity organization like Save the Children. Donapp is a platform where the merchant decides the percentage to be credited as a donation on purchases made by Donapp customers. Donations are entirely tax deductible. Supporters buy from the merchant because they know that the projects they care about will be funded at no additional cost. Donapp can work through its “own” PayPal, so Signorini came up with the idea of Donappay, where a customer can register both his credit card and the loyalty card when registering for the app. Donapp is partnering with Fondazione Italia per il Dono and the Italian Red Cross. These organizations receive the donations and then redistribute them to smaller charities to ensure process transparency. Signorini hopes to soon include small shops and restaurants to the Donapp circle. The app will be launched this October.

Prof. Riccardo Maiolini presented a research paper titled “The Impact of Narrative Style and Entrepreneur’s Experience in Crowdfunding Campaigns.” The paper is about crowdfunding entrepreneurial narratives. Different narrative styles were empirically tested and compared based on revenue received from donors. The research paper will be presented in two international conferences during the summer (an R&D management conference and a special conference on entrepreneurial finance).

Prof. Pulino contributed to the discussion by addressing the implications for education, and the role of institutions in building an entrepreneurial society. Through three case studies, she illustrated how entrepreneurship can be embedded in society: first, she looked at the development of the JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship, which was designed to strategically support the university’s mission; second, she showed how entrepreneurship can be applied to the social arena, through the study of the JCU Enactus team (which the next day won the Enactus national competition); and  third, she explained how entrepreneurship can be learned at a very early age, even in elementary school, demonstrated by her KidsUP project.

Daniele Pica, Associate Professor of Management and Information Systems in the Department of Business Administration at JCU, presented his talk on “The Future of Work: Constant Service Innovation, Automated Self-Service, and Social Mobility.” As he noted, in the near future you will need to become your own entrepreneur, and the government will have to regulate this digital revolution in the workplace. People will have to face questions like “what is the job of the future?”, “What does the digital transformation mean for entrepreneurial education?” He addressed the issues humanity is dealing with today in the job market – such as transition into the fully-automated industry and transformation of business into the new realities of the 21st century.

JCU Professor of Applied Data Analytics in the Department of Business Administration at JCU Alina Sorgner and Frank Fossen from University of Nevada, Reno, further discussed the topic addressed by Professor Pica and talked about Digitalization Risk Occupations and Labor Market Transitions. According to Professor Fossen, almost 50% of jobs will be fully “automatable” in the immediate future. Artificial Intelligence will affect workers on a large scale. Digitalization is already leading to a higher risk of unemployment and occupational changes.