In this monthly interview series, we turn the spotlight on members of the academic community and the important research they do — as thought partners, collaborators, and independent contributors.
For July, we nominated two professors from IE University in Madrid: Julio de Castro, chair professor of entrepreneurship and director of the doctoral program, and Christina Kyprianou, assistant professor of entrepreneurship. Julio and Christina organized and moderated the recent Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Digital Economy, which featured Meta policy team members as panelists.
In this Q&A, Julio and Christina share more about their conversations, their passion for the digital economy, and why they believe academics, industry practitioners, and policymakers need to come together at events more often.
Q: Tell us about your research interests and academic experiences.
Christina Kyprianou: I study digital platform launch and growth strategies, with a focus on platform governance in the sharing economy. This topic keeps me inspired and excited throughout all my projects — from exploring how platforms influence and shape human behavior to investigating how entrepreneurs design and manage the value creation process.
Julio de Castro: Alongside Christina, my research focuses on entrepreneurship in the digital economy and how it impacts society. For example, before the digital economy, there were two to three billion people globally who “didn’t exist” according to society’s standards. They didn’t have a Social Security number or government registration, which made it difficult to accomplish simple things. The digital economy has revolutionized their lives, empowering them to do banking, start a business, and interact with others online.
Q: What inspired you to collaborate with Meta?
JC: As researchers, we specialize in exploring topics. The big driver for our collaboration with Meta was having a partner to disseminate the implications of our research. Teams at Meta are excellent at sharing exciting findings and explaining why it matters to everyone.
CK: Our goal is to inform policymaking by providing research-based knowledge about digital environments. That’s why we always want to involve policy, research, and industry people in the conferences we host. The workshop we recently organized for Meta explored entrepreneurship in the digital economy, and Meta encouraged us to examine both the researchers’ interests and the practitioners’ takeaways from the research.
Q: What were some key takeaways from the event series that might be relevant to current policy debates about the role of technology in society?
JC: We enjoyed several debates during the panel. Take GDPR in Europe — the panelists discussed the pros and cons of moving to uniform standards for equipment connectivity. Yes, it helps reduce waste, but will it restrict innovation? Another major topic was the implications of digital technologies on established corporations. Some experts feel that existing firms are dominating and crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. Others feel that the digital economy is empowering startups with more resources and alternatives than ever before. As established firms continue to expand their technology use, it’ll be interesting to see how companies compete and modify the way they provide services, move products, and reach customers.
CK: We also hosted two panels on diversity in the digital economy. One panel kicked off with the question, does digital technology level the playing field or create more inequalities for entrepreneurs? We also explored whether digital technologies can lead to more homogenization versus heterogeneity of business models. While digitization broadens access to entrepreneurship, a consequence might be that entrepreneurs replicate each other.
Q: Did anything surprise you about the academic event series?
CK: These conferences are incredible opportunities to network and learn. We need to get policy, research, and industry people in one room and talking to one another, so they can solve complex issues together. Fortunately, the people attending these conferences are leaders in their respective fields, so the conversations have been engaging, both on the stage and after, during social events.
Q: Looking forward, which sustainability-centric research topics most excite you?
JC: We have another Zoom-based conference series planned for late 2022. We decided to expand the event series to tackle the issue of sustainability in the digital economy. We’re asking, how does the digital economy help build a more sustainable world, and how do we make the digital economy more sustainable? We cannot fully commit to the digital economy without thinking about the implications for us and our future. The biggest challenge we face is designing and implementing systems to bring innovation and sustainability together — and that’s what we’ll be exploring next year with researchers from all over the world. We can’t wait!