Digital experiences changing how entrepreneurs envisage future ventures

Story by Sarah Dillon, PhD Candidate & Sessional Academic, QUT

For many, the COVID-19 lockdown highlighted how work interactions that are experienced entirely online, are intrinsically different to those experienced in supposed “real life”. New terms such as Zoom fatigue captured the zeitgeist and raised public awareness of some of the ways our brain scans our environment for cues. However, for some this has been their norm for some time.

In the study, we spoke to Australian-based entrepreneurial founders of virtual service firms to better understand the ways in which their experiences of international business activities conducted via digital technologies were different from those conducted in physically co-located environments. We were particularly interested in how these international experiences may have influenced their opportunity recognition processes.

What happens when entrepreneurs have previous experience of leveraging digital technologies to pursue international business growth? What kinds of opportunities do they pursue, when they already know how to pitch for overseas investment online, establish and run geographically dispersed teams across multiple timezones, initiate key partnerships in geographically distant countries, or establish close working relationships with suppliers they have never met?

Our study painted a fascinating picture of Australian-based virtual businesses from multiple sectors, including the sports and lifestyle, education, medical, and finance/insurance sectors, run entirely online for many years prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. We identify distinct patterns in how digital technologies can contribute to stocks of a new type of internationalisation experience. This new type of experience is valuable for entrepreneurs because it can enhance opportunity confidence, for example, in the entrepreneurs’ abilities to bring new business ideas into existence, especially in international business environments. However, our paper also highlights how the experience of physically relocating to another country can still be valuable for entrepreneurs, as it can contribute to the emergence of new business ideas.

More broadly, understanding how distinct experiences contribute to different kinds of business knowledge can enable entrepreneurs and businesses to not only survive the rapid shift to online and remote activities, but to consider ways they can turn their experiences into lasting benefits. The study shows the kind of entrepreneurs we may see emerging in the not-too-distant future, as a new generation of digital natives enters the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The article abstract follows below. Those with access can download the article here. All others are welcome to request a copy from


This study explores how entrepreneurs acquire international experiences within physical and digital business environments, and how these experiences influence the way international opportunities are recognised and exploited. Based on multiple case study evidence, including in-depth interviews with international entrepreneurs from 16 small virtual service firms, findings suggest entrepreneurs who interact with digital technologies in a responsive way in international settings may promote the emergence of a new type of experience: “digital internationalisation experience”. This new type of experience, in turn, contributes to enhanced idea generation and opportunity confidence that enable international entrepreneurial exploitation.