Communicating The Business Model at a Swedish Start-Up: An Interpretive Study


  • Emelie Havemo



Purpose: Although the notion of articulating and communicating ideas is central to theories of business models,

the current literature has scarcely explored how business models are used and communicated by practitioners. The

label “business model” itself can both organize and construct beliefs and actions. The purpose of this paper is to

explore the roles of practitioner-described business models by using an interpretive approach.

Design/Methodology/Approach: The study is based on the case study of a Swedish technology start-up with a

business model labelled “hardware plus software”. The firm’s conceptualizations of this business model in public

and non-public sources were analysed in order to show how a practitioner-described business model was used.

Findings and Contributions: The business model label can be used at different organizational levels using different

levels of abstraction, and may include multiple—and sometimes conflicting—perspectives. The paper shows how a

practitioner-defined business model label served as a communication device by supporting three roles: communicating

strategy, learning from others, and articulating identity.

Originality/Value: The study introduces the notion of the business model as a communication device by showing

how the label itself both enables and constrains interpretations of the firm in practice. The finding of parallel

representations contradicts the implicit assumption that firms refer to a “single business model” by showing the

diversity of articulations of the business model depending on the time frame, the role of the communicator, and

communication arenas.