communication, business model, archetypal label, case study, new venture
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