Two Sides of the Same Coin? Decentralized versus Proprietary Blockchains and the Performance of Digital Currencies

Carmelo Cennamo, Cecilia Marchesi, Tim Meyer

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There is a shared view among practitioners that the blockchain is a revolutionary, decentralized technology that will have a larger impact than the Internet. Firms are increasingly using blockchains for various applications; the most prominent of which to date are digital currencies. In this article, we aim to increase our theoretical understanding of the driving forces behind the success and volatility of digital currencies. We use a detailed dataset of 345 digital currencies for our explorative analysis and identify some of the key factors that can explain their performance. We find that the success and volatility of digital currencies depend on their business type (i.e., whether they relate to a platform business or not) and on their technology type (i.e., whether they are based on their own specialized blockchain technology or on a third-party standardized platform blockchain). Our findings suggest that, paradoxically, to obtain the promised benefits of this decentralized technology, firms need to centralize part of it to retain control over critical strategic dimensions (data and rules for transaction). We discuss the implications of our discovery for other contexts undergoing digital transformation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Discoveries
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)382-405
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Blockchain
  • Decentralized technology
  • Digital currencies
  • Initial coin offerings
  • Modularity

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