The literature on market category formation provides insufficient insights into how entrepreneurs address the need for collective legitimation of a market category while simultaneously managing tensions between heterogeneous practices. Through a study of the Autism@Work market category, this article shows that covert prototype differentiation constitutes a distinct construct that explains how entrepreneurs in heterogeneous market categories can strengthen category legitimacy while supporting the practices that they perceive as appropriate, without triggering conflicts related to category heterogeneity. The article also provides insights into how market category legitimacy is perceived by entrepreneurs and the antecedents and implications of such perceptions.
- Covert prototype differentiation
- Legitimacy threshold
- Market category legitimation
- Suppressed competition