Overcoming the No-reputation Liability: A Qualitative Study on Startup Credibility and its Influence on B2B Purchase Decisions
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- Master of Science 
The objective of this thesis is to understand how credibility associated with being a startup affects B2B purchase decisions. In a rapidly changing globalised world, social and economic entrepreneurship are becoming increasingly important. Particularly in addressing population-related, economic, and environmental challenges. Startups have a crucial role in both creating technology and seizing opportunities to tackle global issues. However, young startups face significant challenges in an economy dominated by risk-aversion, strong brands and commoditized products and services. The absence of intangible assets, such as reference customers and success stories, hampers their credibility and marketing activities towards potential early adopters. This thesis aims to address the issue of credibility and its impact on startups. By investigating this phenomenon, we seek to contribute to both academia and practice, helping startups achieve success. To address this issue, we conducted a qualitative multiple case study, where we interviewed customers of three Norwegian technology-startups in different industries. Moreover, we discuss and analyse the qualitative interviews in relation to relevant literature on supplier credibility, innovation adoption, and B2B relationships and transactions. Our findings reveal that the credibility associated with being a startup profoundly influences purchase decisions in B2B markets. We identify a potential connection between concerns about startup credibility and customer firm size, suggesting variations in early adopter suitability. Additionally, co-creation emerges as a positive factor contributing to startup credibility and mitigating concerns associated with startups as suppliers. In conclusion, we recommend that startups carefully consider their potential early adopters. Some early adopters may be easier to attract, while others may have greater significance as reference customers. Some may provide market access and valuable insights, while some may exploit the buyer-seller power-distance. Overall, this thesis sheds light on the importance of credibility for startups and provides insights to support their growth and competitiveness in an increasingly challenging business landscape.
Masteroppgave(MSc) in Master of Science in Strategic Marketing Management - Handelshøyskolen BI, 2023