Cahen, Fernanda; Borini, Felipe Mendes

This article evaluates which specific capabilities of a firm enable its internationalization process, with an emphasis on companies with exclusively digital products. The results provide an opportunity to examine the strength of earlier findings in International Entrepreneurship (IE) research, which has largely addressed high-tech ventures that export physical products. We reveal a set of intangible capabilities that are especially relevant to digital companies and their internationalization process, without foreign direct investment (FDI) or with limited outward assets characterized by non-equity entry modes. Using an inductive, multiple-case study methodology, we develop a new construct that we term ‘international digital competence’ (IDC). IDC consists of four capabilities critical to these companies: cross-cultural programming skills, global virtual networks, cross-border digital monetizing adaptability, and international business model reconfiguration. The possession of IDC enables digital companies to expand internationally through an online presence. Therefore, we propose that international online expansion can increase the likelihood of a digital company performing outward assets via non-equity entry modes. We also conceived that the digital company’s strategy to achieve non-equity investments is moderated by its entrepreneur’s international orientation.

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