Watershed Moments, Cognitive Discontinuities, and Entrepreneurial Entry: The Case of New Space

Anoop Menon, Management, The Wharton School; Laura Huang, Harvard Business School; and Tiona Zuzul, University of Washington

Abstract: In this paper, we explore how an industry’s watershed moments – vivid, publically salient, emotionally resonant events – can drive the emergence of a new market. Our empirical context is the New Space market, a growing number of new, private companies developing and using spaceflight-access technologies. We draw on archival and interview data to propose that the market’s emergence was catalyzed by a set of watershed moments in aerospace. By focusing stakeholders’ attention, motivating action, and threatening belief systems, the watershed moments triggered a search for new solutions, illuminated the possibility for change, and challenged or reinforced existing mental models. This helped drive the emergence of a previously-unlikely market in aerospace. In developing our ideas, we contribute to research on new markets, mental models, and industry-wide events.