sharing economy

Sharing companies are growing globally in new and faster ways

The global business environment is undergoing constant changes, driven by rapid advancements in digital technology and shifting societal attitudes. A phenomenon that has gained momentum over the past decade is the sharing economy. This trend has led to an explosion of new companies that disrupt global industry structures through their innovative business models.

The sharing economy is about sharing and utilising resources collectively. It can range from renting out your car or home, to sharing food or clothing with other people. This phenomenon has impacted how companies operating within the sharing economy grow and expand internationally.

A new thesis in business administration, with focus on international business, by Heidi Coral Thornton, shows how the sharing economy has paved the way for a new type of firm, and these firms are growing globally in novel ways. By examining how companies create, deliver and capture value, who they work with, and how they expand to other countries, the thesis provides insights into how the sharing economy companies operate on the global market.

Heidi Coral Thornton investigates three important aspects: the business model (howa company creates, delivers and captures value), the business ecosystem (the various actors and relationships the company is part of), and the different ways of international growth.

"The results show that companies in the sharing economy think about international growth from the beginning," she says. "They are flexible and adapt to different markets."

"The most important part is that they are adaptable and flexible and able to make changes to their business model, which in turn will help advance international growth. Moreover, international expansion can also impact the business model, resulting in further changes being made, and so on."

Another important part is the business ecosystem. It involves all the different actors and relationships that the company is part of. Research shows that companies must build a strong ecosystem of partners, users, and other players (e.g., the media, the government, etc.) to grow internationally.


The results show that companies in the sharing economy think about international growth from the beginning. They are flexible and adapt to different markets.

Heidi Coral Thornton


Finally, Heidi Coral Thornton has found that there are different ways to grow internationally. She talks about "paths to internationalisation" and these include active and passive approaches, or a combination of both. Active is when a sharing economy company actively seeks to enter a specific new market. Passive is when the sharing economy company makes its platform accessible globally (e.g., by developing the platform in English, accepting all currencies, etc). The most important thing is that the company is flexible and can adapt to different situations.

Flexible and adapt to a rapidly changing world

"This provides important insights for companies in the sharing economy. I show that they need to think about how to grow internationally from the beginning. Sharing economy companies shouldn’t worry about having the perfect business model in the beginning. It is better to internationalise early and modify the business model "on the go". As for the ecosystem, sharing economy companies should start to build this early on as it can help them internationalise because they can leverage the resources of the ecosystem players when entering new markets."

"In the end, it's about being flexible and being able to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Companies in the sharing economy must be prepared to take different paths and test new ideas to grow and succeed on the global market."

Super-apps the next step

Now, Heidi Coral Thornton has completed her dissertation, but she is not leaving the sharing economy behind:

"I will continue to do research in this area, and I have some ongoing research projects through international collaborations in the UK and the U.S.."

"I am also interested in expanding my area of study and am currently involved in a cross-disciplinary research project on Asian superapps with a colleague from social sciences at Linnaeus University. A superapp is a mobile or web app that can do many things, like handling payments and transactions. It becomes an all-in-one platform for both purchases and communication online, covering many different aspects of personal and business life. We are comparing superapps in China and South Korea. I have already visited South Korea to collect data."

"In the future, I would like to continue conducting research in the area. The superapps are very big in Asia, but barely exist in Europe or the U.S. I am curious to investigate why."