Rahul Kapoor

Rahul Kapoor
  • Associate Professor of Management

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2207 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: innovation, technology management and strategy, firm boundaries, industry evolution, business ecosystems

Links: CV


Rahul Kapoor is an Associate Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In his research, Rahul focuses on the management of industry disruption and business ecosystems from a perspective of both established and emerging firms. His work has been published in several leading peer-reviewed journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Research Policy and Strategic Management Journal, and in practitioner journals including the Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review. He is a member of the editorial board for the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal and Strategy Science. He is currently the Program Chair for the Technology and Innovation Management Division of the Academy of Management. At Wharton, Rahul teaches undergraduate, MBA, Executive MBA, and PhD courses on technology and innovation strategy. He is also an active contributor to Wharton’s Executive Education, teaching in both the customized and open enrollment programs. He has received several awards for his research and teaching including the inaugural Academy of Management (Technology and Innovation Management Division) Emerging Scholar Award. Prior to joining academia, he spent over 7 years in the high-tech industry where he worked for Texas Instruments and was involved with two startups, one of which he co-founded.

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  • John C. Eklund and Rahul Kapoor (2019), Pursuing the New while Sustaining the Current: Incumbent Strategies and Firm Value during the Nascent Period of Industry Change, Organization Science, 22.

    Abstract: This study considers the nascent period of industry change when the prevalent business model is being threatened by a new model, but there is significant uncertainty with respect to whether and when the new model will dominate. We focus on the challenge of incumbents pursuing both models simultaneously during the nascent period, and the implications on their firms’ valuations. Our theory is premised on the adjustment costs incurred by incumbents associated with the sharing of resources across business models and the conflict between managers vying for limited resources. While firms’ assets and competitive environments are key drivers of their value, we argue that they also impact adjustment costs. Evidence from the U.S. electric utility industry, which is undergoing a change from a centralized to a decentralized model, offers strong support for our arguments. The greater the level of incumbents’ assets that are specific to the existing model, and the greater the level of competition that they face, the lower are their firms’ valuations when investing in the new model relative to when investing in the existing model. Hence, ironically, those incumbents potentially most threatened by the change seem to be least rewarded for their efforts to renew themselves. However, pursuing the new model via alliances can help mitigate adjustment costs. The study uncovers the challenges that incumbents face as they pursue the new model in tandem with the existing dominant model, and helps explain why some incumbents may successfully navigate the changing industry landscape while others may stumble.

  • Rahul Kapoor (2018), Ecosystems: Broadening the Locus of Value Creation, Journal of Organization Design.

    Abstract: The objective of this article is to introduce readers to the emerging research stream on business ecosystems, explicating the novelty and the usefulness of ecosystem-based theorizing, and hoping to pave the way for an influential but cumulative body of knowledge. The key tenets within an ecosystem-based perspective are outlined, and used to contrast this emerging perspective from other established perspectives of value chains, supply chains, alliances and networks. The article concludes by discussing the research approaches that can be employed to study ecosystems and the implications for organization design.

  • Rahul Kapoor, Thomas Klueter, James M. Wilson (2017), Challenges in the Gene Therapy Commercial Ecosystem, Nature Biotechnology, 35 (9), pp. 813-815.

    Abstract: The emergence of biotech has resulted in a rich ecosystem of different types of actors contributing to the technological advance. Despite the enormous promise of biotech-based therapeutics, there is substantial uncertainty regarding when scientific discoveries will emerge, whether these discoveries will achieve clinical success, and how commercialized treatments will create value. Here we shed light on two contrasting episodes of technological advance, in monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and gene therapy, and the roles played by different types of institutional actors from the 1990s to today. Both technologies created significant opportunities within the biotech ecosystem. But mAbs have followed a smooth trajectory of progress, whereas gene therapy has been slower to emerge from a set of clinical setbacks at the turn of the twenty-first century. Here, we contrast these two commercialization paths to shed light on the challenges in the gene therapy ecosystem.

  • Nathan Furr and Rahul Kapoor (2017), Capabilities, Technologies, and Firm Survival during Industry Shakeout: Evidence from the Global Solar Photovoltaic Industry, Strategic Management Journal.

    Abstract: Explanations of entrants’ survival in an emerging industry are premised on pre-entry capabilities or technology choices prior to the emergence of the dominant design. We consider how these drivers interact to strengthen or nullify firms’ pre-entry advantage, as well as facilitate adaptation as the industry evolves. We also expand the treatment of exit by separating dissolution from acquisition, in which firms’ capabilities continue to be utilized in the industry. Studying a recent shakeout in the global solar photovoltaic industry, we find that pre-entry capabilities and technology choices act in a complementary manner for some firms, thereby enhancing survival, and as buffers against exit for others. Nearly half of exits were via acquisitions, and technology choice at entry played an important role in determining how firms exited.

  • Joon Mahn Lee and Rahul Kapoor (2017), Complementarities and Coordination: Implications for Governance Mode and Performance of Multiproduct Firms, Organization Science.

    Abstract: We explore the fit between a firm’s product portfolio strategy and its governance mode with respect to complementary activities that underlies its product offering.  We view firm’s governance choice through the lens of orchestrating complementary activities that entail multiple interrelated and often simultaneously occurring transactions.  Our core premise is that a broader product portfolio while offering benefits through the bundle of complementary activities raises the coordination costs for firms, making integration of complementary activities a preferred mode of governance.  We find strong support for our arguments in the context of the U.S. healthcare industry.  Hospitals with a narrow service portfolio are more likely to have contracts with physicians as external service providers, and hospitals with a broad service portfolio are more likely to employ their own physicians.  Moreover, hospitals that deviate from this fit-based relationship suffer a significant penalty in terms of their financial performance as measured by return on assets (ROA) and return on sales (ROS).  Our findings allow us to shed new light on the linkage between strategy and governance mode, and enable us to illustrate that performance differences across multiproduct firms may be better understood by considering the fit between their strategy and their governance mode instead of simply focusing either on their strategy or on their governance mode per se.

  • Rahul Kapoor and Shiva Agarwal (2017), Sustaining Superior Performance in Business Ecosystems: Evidence from Application Software Developers in the iOS and Android Smartphone Ecosystems, Organization Science, 28 (3), pp. 531-551.

    Abstract: We study the phenomenon of business ecosystems in which a platform firm orchestrates the functioning of the ecosystem by providing a platform and setting the rules for other complementor firms to participate in it. We develop a theoretical framework to explain how the structural and evolutionary features of the ecosystem may shape the extent to which participating complementor firms can sustain their superior performance. The structural feature, which we refer to as ecosystem complexity, is a function of the number of unique components or subsystems that interact with the complementor’s product. We incorporate the evolutionary features by considering the role of generational transitions initiated by platform firms over time as well as the role of complementors’ ecosystem-specific experience. Evidence from Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android smartphone ecosystems supports our arguments that higher ecosystem complexity helps app developers sustain their superior performance, and that this effect is stronger for more experienced firms. In contrast, platform transitions initiated by Apple and Google make it more difficult for app developers to sustain their performance superiority, and that this effect is exacerbated by the extent of ecosystem complexity.  The study offers a novel account of how the performance of complementor firms in business ecosystems may be shaped by their ecosystem-level interdependencies.

  • Shiva Agarwal and Rahul Kapoor (Working), Two Faces of Value Creation in Business Ecosystems: Leveraging Complementarities and Managing Interdependencies.

    Abstract: A given innovation often does not stand alone. Rather it is connected with other elements in the ecosystem that impacts its value creation. We draw on this premise in a platform-based ecosystem in which participating firms innovate around a platform. We introduce the notion of connectedness to refer to the extent to which a given innovation interacts with the platform (i.e., platform connectedness) and also with the other complements in the ecosystem (i.e., complement connectedness). On the one hand, higher connectedness may allow the innovation to leverage complementarities. On the other hand, it may subject the innovation to an array of interdependencies that may limit its value creation. We explore these arguments on apps launched by software developers for Apple’s iPhone platform between 2008 and 2013. We find that higher platform and complement connectedness is in general associated with a greater likelihood of app’s successful commercialization. However, the benefit of platform connectedness is weakened when Apple updates its platform with a new generation.  In contrast, the benefit of complement connectedness is strengthened when Apple updates its platform and if the complements themselves have low platform connectedness. These findings shed light on two faces of value creation in ecosystems -- the opportunities associated with leveraging complementarities and the challenges associated with managing technological interdependencies.

  • Ron Adner and Rahul Kapoor (2016), Innovation Ecosystems and the Pace of Substitution: Re-examining Technology S-curves, Strategic Management Journal, 37 (4), pp. 625-648.

    Abstract: Why do some new technologies emerge and quickly supplant incumbent technologies while others take years or decades to take off? We explore this question by presenting a framework that considers both the focal competing technologies as well as the ecosystems in which they are embedded. Within our framework, each episode of technology transition is characterized by the ecosystem emergence challenge that confronts the new technology and the ecosystem extension opportunity that is available to the old technology. We identify four qualitatively distinct regimes with clear predictions for the pace of substitution. Evidence from 10 episodes of technology transitions in the semiconductor lithography equipment industry from 1972 to 2009 offers strong support for our framework. We discuss the implication of our approach for firm strategy.

  • Rahul Kapoor and Thomas Klueter (2015), Decoding the Adaptability-Rigidity Puzzle: Evidence from Pharmaceutical Incumbents’ Pursuit of Gene Therapy and Monoclonal Antibodies, Academy of Management Journal, 58 (4), pp. 1180-1207.

    Abstract: The emergence of radical technologies presents a significant challenge to incumbent firms. We study firms’ management of radical technological change by separating their actions into upstream research (the “R” of R&D) and downstream development (the “D” of R&D). We introduce two contingencies to explain when incumbents’ research investments in radical technologies translate into product development and when these upstream investments may get voided by organizational inertia downstream. First, radical technologies can differ in how they conform to incumbents’ existing business models, impacting the extent to which the movement of research outputs toward development will be subject to inertial pressures. Second, incumbents can invest in a radical technology through a variety of modes (internal research, external research contracts, alliances, acquisitions). These modes represent unique combinations of who does research and who is involved in the decision for subsequent development, and, hence, differ in the extent to which they are shielded from inertial pressures. This difference helps explain why incumbents, despite responding to radical technologies, may still be unable to adapt, as well as what types of investments will be more effective in helping firms navigate technological change. Evidence from pharmaceutical incumbents’ pursuit of monoclonal antibodies and gene therapy offers strong support for our arguments.

  • Rahul Kapoor and Nathan Furr (2015), Complementarities and Competition: Unpacking the Drivers of Entrants’ Technology Choices in the Solar Photovoltaic Industry, Strategic Management Journal, 36 (3), pp. 416-436.

    Abstract: Entrants in new industries pursue distinct technologies in hopes of winning the technology competition and achieving sustainable competitive advantage. We draw on the complementary assets framework to predict entrants’ technology choices in an emerging industry. Evidence from the global solar photovoltaic industry supports our arguments that entrants are more likely to choose technologies with higher technical performance and for which key complementary assets are available in the ecosystem. However, diversifying entrants are more likely to trade off superior performance for complementary asset availability whereas start-up entrants are more likely to trade off complementary asset availability for superior performance. This difference is largely due to diversifying entrants with pre-entry capabilities related to the industry. The study offers a novel illustration of how complementarities and competition shape entry strategies.


Current Courses

  • MGMT898 - Global Modular Course B


  • WH 213 - Global Modular Course B: Technology, Innovation, And Entrep In Buenos Aires Essay

    WH 213910

Past Courses


    The course is designed to meet the needs of future managers, entrepreneurs, consultants and investors who must analyze and develop business strategies in technology-based industries. The emphasis is on learning conceptual models and frameworks to help navigate the complexity and dynamism in such industries. This is not a course in new product development or in using information technology to improve business processes and offerings. We will take a perspective of bothestablished and emerging firms competing through technological innovations, andstudy the key strategic drivers of value creation and appropriation in the context of business ecosystems. There is definitely an overlap in content with other courses in intermediate microeconomics, or managerial economics. Nevertheless, the treatment is sufficiently distinctive to make it complementary to those other treatments for a student who is particularly interested in economic change, or is otherwise interested in acquiring a broader view of economics.


    The course is designed to meet the needs of the future managers, entrepreneurs, consultants and investors who must analyze and develop business strategies in technology-based industries. The emphasis is on learning conceptual models and frameworks to help navigate the complexity and dynamism in such industries. This is not a course in new product development or in using information technology to improve business processes and offerings. We will take a perspective of both established and emerging firms competing through technological innovations, and study the key strategic drivers of value creation and appropriation in the context of business ecosystems.


    Emerging enterprises, the focus in this course, are small, new, fast-growing organizations. Their founders and managers face multifaceted challenges: how to assess the competitive position of their business model and develop a strategy; how to develop the internal organizational structure, culture, and policies for selecting and managing employees; and how to pursue global opportunities. We cover these challenges in separate modules on strategy, human and social capital, and global issues. The human and social capital module covers classic management challenges of aligning interests of the individual and the organization; managing individual psychological needs and social influences; and developing employee capabilities that provide competitive advantage. Also covered are unique challenges that yound organizations face, i.e. building an effective culture; recruiting, selecting, and retaining talent; building systematic approaches to motivating employees; coping with the stresses of rapid growth; and leveraging the benefits (and avoiding the liabilities) of the founder's powerful imprint. The strategy module covers fundamental issues central to the competitiveness of the enterprise. Because the strategy field is broad, MGMT 612 emphasizes topics and frameworks that are most relevant for younger firms, such as innovation, disruption, managing resource constraints, and building capabilities. However, a key insight of the module is the importance of seeing the playing field from the perspective of the competition. Thus, by the end of this section, students will have a robust grounding in strategy that will allow them to succeed, whether their career path leads to a Fortune 100 firm or a garage start up. The global module covers the emerging firm's decision about when (and whether) to internationalize. This decision must address which foreign markets to enter; the mode of entry; the sequence of moves to develop capabilities; what organizational form to choose; where to establish HQ; and how to adapt to the unique economic and institutional features of different markets. In all these issues, the emphasis is on how young, resource-constrained firms can position themselves profitably in globally competitive markets. For the final project, student teams provide integrated analysis across the modules for an emerging enterprise of their choice.


    The course is designed to meet the needs of future managers, entrepreneurs, consultants and investors who must analyze and develop business strategies in technology-based industries. The emphasis is on learning conceptual models and frameworks to help navigate the complexity and dynamism in such industries. This is not a course in new product development or in using information technology to improve business processes and offerings. We will take a perspective of both established and emerging firms competing through technological innovations, and study the key strategic drivers of value creation and appropriation in the context of business ecosystems. The course uses a combination of cases, simulation and readings. The cases are drawn primarily from technology-based industries. Note, however, that the case disucssions are mainly based on strategic (not technical) issues. Hence, a technical background is not required for fruitful participation.




    Innovation is currently a hot topic. The popular stereotype holds that firms that are not innovating, or that are not at least saying that they are innovating, are backward at best and at risk of extinction at worst. Behind the hype ismore than half a century of theory and research on organizational and managerial innovation, and the seminar will focus on this domain. A useful overview of the domain is available in Fariborz Damanpour "Organizational Innovation" in Oxford Rsearch Encyclopedia on Business and Management Oxford University Press 2018. We will examine a number of theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding the phenomenon that have emerged during this period and identify key questions explored, principal contributions to the literature, and remaining questions and areas for future research. At the same time, we will embard on a journey in the sociology of knowledge, to encourange you to understand how the evolution of these approaches is linked to changes in the larger world. The seminar is also designed to allow you to pursue an angle on the subject matter that is of particular interest to you, and the deliverables are intended to allow you to investigate a topic that you wish to explore in some depth. Both will be discussed at the beginning of the course and will be fleshed out in subsequent discussions together.

Awards and Honors

  • Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, 2016
  • Finalist, Academy of Management Journal Best Article Award, 2015
  • Second Prize, Best Paper in Innovation Management (EBS Business School and MikroFORUM), 2013
  • First runner-up, INFORMS-Industry Studies Association Best Paper Prize, 2013
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, Business Policy and Strategy Division of the Academy of Management, 2012
  • Winner, Academy of Management Technology and Innovation Management Division Past Chairs Emerging Scholar Award, 2011
  • Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, 2010
  • Finalist, Sloan Industry Studies Dissertation Award, 2009
  • Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, 2008
  • Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, 2005
  • Carolyn Dexter Award Nominee, Academy of Management Meeting, 2005
  • INSEAD Ph.D. Fellowship, 2004-2008
  • Nanyang Technological University Natsteel Gold Medal, 1997
  • Singapore Airlines – Neptune Orient Lines Undergraduate Scholarship, 1993-1997


In the News

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Awards and Honors

Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2016
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