PhD Defense – Muhammad Nauman Shahid

PhD Defense – Muhammad Nauman Shahid

June 13, 2024

Date/Time/Venue: 13 June 2024 @ 12:00PM @ Online-Zoom

Dissertation Title: Blockchain Beyond Borders: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Evolving Legitimacy in ICO-driven Entrepreneurship


This dissertation comprises two essays that examine the interdisciplinary landscape of blockchain research and shed light on the paradigm shift in organisational legitimacy in the context of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). The first essay explores the interdisciplinarity of the blockchain literature and illuminates the complex network of disciplinary ideas that collectively influence and shape the interdisciplinary landscape of blockchain research. Using topic modelling and statistical analysis, I analysed an extensive collection of 35,604 academic articles and examined the extent of interdisciplinarity within academic blockchain research. My analysis finds a strong interdisciplinary focus on certain research topics, while others had a more specific disciplinary focus. In addition, I observe a promising trend of increasing interdisciplinarity over time.

This essay defies the conventional wisdom that blockchain is solely under the purview of a single discipline, and discovers new themes and trends in blockchain research. Additionally, it presents a framework to capture different aspects of the interdisciplinary nature of blockchain technology in different fields. This approach provides a stepping stone and can guide future research on developing potential mechanisms to gauge the extent of the interdisciplinary nature of evolving technologies, such as blockchain.

The second essay examined the current state of cultural entrepreneurship theory from the perspective of organisational identity building. According to the organisational literature, organisational legitimacy is a source of organisational identity building for established organisations to attract resources. Researchers have previously identified several signalling sources for organisational legitimacy, such as corporate social responsibility and the strategic management of public perceptions through traditional media. The purpose of using signalling sources is to differentiate the organisation from its competitors. As traditional signalling sources are often expensive and biased, they may not be suitable for early-stage entrepreneurial ventures. With the advent of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), a blockchain-based approach to early-stage entrepreneurship financing, traditional signalling sources have become obsolete. Therefore, early-stage entrepreneurial ventures use alternative methods, such as entrepreneurial storytelling, to communicate and convey organisational legitimacy. This article argues that optimal distinctiveness in entrepreneurial storytelling can transmit the organisational legitimacy of early-stage entrepreneurial ventures to resource-providing audiences. The theory of cultural entrepreneurship suggests that optimal distinctiveness and organisational legitimacy are incompatible. This study questions the idea that optimal distinctiveness is harmful to organisational legitimacy, arguing that early-stage entrepreneurial ventures seeking ICO funding can function as a signalling source for organisational legitimacy. This argument is crucial because it fundamentally changes the relationship between optimal distinctiveness and organisational legitimacy. Furthermore, this essay examines the role of online media as a tool that influences the relationship between optimal distinctiveness and organisational legitimacy. A strategically managed online media can have an effect similar to traditional media, whereas online media, unlike traditional media, can shift organisational legitimacy, thereby limiting an organisation’s strategic monopoly. This essay examines data from 306 ICOs in 29 market categories, based on the theoretical arguments above. The results confirm that optimal distinctiveness in an ICO can legitimise early-stage entrepreneurial ventures and that public perceptions of online media can influence the relationship between optimal distinctiveness and organisational legitimacy.

Keywords: Blockchain, literature review, topic modelling, latent dirichlet allocation, entrepreneurship, organisational legitimacy, optimal distinctiveness, online media, initial coin offerings