Entrepreneurial Drive: Is it important to be one’s own boss? It is helpful to place entrepreneurship apart from purpose or acceptability precisely because the idea that platform livelihoods are a form of entrepreneurship remains contested. It’s absolutely clear that some people involved in platform livelihoods view themselves as entrepreneurs, and equally clear that others do not. While the narratives provided by the platforms, the actual opportunities available on the platforms, and the desires of some individuals to pursue this type of entrepreneurship may align, but that is not the same as suggesting that everyone involved is, wants to be, or considers themselves “an entrepreneur”.
We think it is important to place entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial drive as a distinct element, separate from other emotional returns (like flexibility or agency), sense of meaning (like helping others), or feeling proud of one’s work, precisely because the idea that platform livelihoods are a form of entrepreneurship remains contested. It’s absolutely clear that some people involved in platform livelihoods view themselves as entrepreneurs, and it’s equally clear that others do not. When a Gojek driver in Indonesia is happy for the opportunity for a single mother to be independent (Nastiti 2017), that is still not necessarily an expression of enthusiasm for being an entrepreneur.
For some workers, the platform livelihood is, or at least is a step towards, entrepreneurship:
For example, Jayson (Philippines; lead generation) explained: “The jobs that we are being asked to do … are most probably the same as what we’re doing in the office. But when we do it on a freelancer perspective, it puts more pressure to it…failure is not an option. When you fail, it reflects on your reputation.” … Remote gig work was perceived to be the first step towards reaching more substantive entrepreneurial aims, usually owning their own business. To this end, remote gig work was seen as providing a potential means of saving enough initial capital to setup a business in the future. [This type of work is] seen as enhancing the dispositional attitudes necessary to succeed as an “entrepreneur.”… It was clear that a collective identity did exist for these workers, and that it was one that was related to the theme of autonomy and often articulated in reference to entrepreneurial values and freelancer status. (Wood, Lehdonvirta, and Graham 2018).
Or consider these Saudi women, pursuing E-commerce at home:
Despite the significance of financial success, the real benefit of entrepreneurship appeared to be the self-fulfillment as a result of creating a business. “I am not driven because I want to make money. That’s not why I wake up in the morning. That’s not what drives me. I have the satisfaction when you build up something from nothing, when you achieve your own goal. That is my driver.” (McAdam, Crowley, and Harrison 2020)
Raval and Pal (2019, 8–9) spoke with platform managers at a beauty care platform in India,
The difficulty with quantifying “good work,” “quality of service” as well as the lack of a standard career progression trajectory—all these factors contributed to the anxiety of “What next?” for all the beauty workers we spoke to. Against these normative conditions of the industry in India, they view better pay and entrepreneurship as progress. … the manager told us, “these pros eventually want to become entrepreneurs and we help them in getting there.”
These are not universals, but they move across segments and may reflect how entrepreneurship is a kind of motivation that is shared by some individuals, across several segments, rather than being concentrated in one or two types of platform livelihood. As the research literature advances, and as policy adjust to an increased role for platform livelihoods in economies, it may be important to note how the narratives provided by the platforms, the actual opportunities available there, and the desires of some individuals to pursue this type of livelihood, may align. However, that is not the same as suggesting that everyone involved is, wants to be, or considers themselves “an entrepreneur.”
McAdam, Maura, Caren Crowley, and Richard T. Harrison. 2020. “Digital Girl: Cyberfeminism and the Emancipatory Potential of Digital Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies.” Small Business Economics 55 (2): 349–62. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00301-2.
Nastiti, Aulia D. 2017. “Worker Unrest and Contentious Labor Practice of Ride-Hailing Services in Indonesia 1.” In Arryman Symposium. Jakarta: Buffett Institute, Northwestern University. https://www.edgs.northwestern.edu/documents/2017-nastiti—arryman-paper,-evanston-symposium,-may-13.pdf.
Raval, Noopur, and Joyojeet Pal. 2019. “Making a ‘Pro’: ‘Professionalism’ after Platforms in Beauty-Work.” Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 3 (CSCW): 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1145/3359277.
Wood, Alex J., Vili Lehdonvirta, and Mark Graham. 2018. “Workers of the Internet Unite? Online Freelancer Organisation among Remote Gig Economy Workers in Six Asian and African Countries.” New Technology, Work and Employment 33 (2): 95–112. https://doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12112.