Women entrepreneurs’ opportunity identification of digital platform start-ups: emerging evidence from South Africa

Ethné M. Swartz, Caren Brenda Scheepers, Tracey Toefy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cognitive drivers of opportunity identification and development are important in entrepreneurship. This study examines antecedents of opportunity development among women founders of digital platform start-ups, defined as technology-mediated sites that facilitate user interactions, processing of transactions or other innovative practices. The opportunity identification and development literature framed our exploration of drivers into digital entrepreneurship among women in a middle-income economy, an area under-represented in prior research. Design/methodology/approach: This research uses in-depth interview data with women founders of five digital platform start-ups in South Africa. The authors supplemented primary interviews with secondary data from a global big data site to provide context for how investors are funding women-owned start-ups in the country. Findings: Entrepreneurs’ heightened alertness to opportunity developed from a confluence of factors such as personal values, impatience at the slow pace of change in post-Apartheid South Africa, corporate ennui and building for-profit business models driven by social purpose. Respondents had multiple identities, including gender, culture and generation that influenced their development as entrepreneurs and their adoption of digital platform strategy for start-up ventures. Research limitations/implications: Multiple factors influence women entrepreneurs during the opportunity identification and development process as they enact the creation of digital platform start-ups. The authors recommend additional research linking opportunity identification and development to gender in emerging markets. Practical implications: South Africa is witnessing the emergence of women-owned digital platform start-ups that attract risk capital investment. These entrepreneurs are university educated and use prior corporate experience to create growth-oriented companies that government should support. Originality/value: The study contributes to opportunity identification theory building based on context, specifically how the concepts and strategies can inform new models that include women entrepreneurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-374
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship
Issue number3
StatePublished - 9 Aug 2022


  • Digital platforms
  • Entrepreneurial alertness
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Identity Theory
  • Life transitions
  • Opportunity identification
  • Start-ups
  • Women entrepreneurs


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