Entrepreneurial Finance and the Flat-World Hypothesis: Evidence from Crowd-Funding Entrepreneurs in the Arts
We examine the geography of early stage entrepreneurial finance in the context of an internet marketplace for funding new musical artist-entrepreneurs. A large body of research documents that investors in early-stage projects are disproportionately co-located with the entrepreneur. Theory predicts this will be particularly true of artist-entrepreneurs with preliminary-stage projects, difficult-to-contract-for effort, difficult-to-observe creativity, negligible tangible assets, and limited reputations. At the same time, however, observers of the spatial effects of the internet and related technologies report that many economic activities have become much less geographically dependent. At an aggregate level, the internet marketplace we examine does indeed demonstrate a spatial transformation of the entrepreneurial finance process: the average distance between investors and artist-entrepreneurs is 4,831 km. However, geography still matters; investors are disproportionately likely to be local and, conditional on investing, local investors invest more. This apparent role for proximity is strongest before entrepreneurs visibly accumulate capital. Within a single round of financing, local investors are more likely to engage earlier in the funding cycle. However, this difference in the timing of investment is almost entirely explained by a particular type of investor, whom we characterize as ``family, friends, and fans." We conjecture that these individuals, who are disproportionately co-located with the entrepreneur, have offline information about the entrepreneur and therefore derive less new information from observing the aggregate financing raised. We speculate that the path-dependent role of this offline network in conveying information to the online community limits the ``flat world'' potential of these communication technologies.
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