Student Spotlight: Andrew Foley

Andrew Foley

March 22, 2021

Andrew Foley is a doctoral candidate in management from Medford, New Jersey. He chose to pursue graduate studies at Cornell because of the strength of the faculty at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

I used my conference grant to present a paper on how a firm’s alliance partners leave lasting influences on its strategic choices, even long after these partnerships have ended. We’ve seen this phenomenon in many settings, from industries in renewable energy, to transportation, and even high tech. What my work highlights is that, under certain conditions, a strategic partner will shape a firm’s capabilities such that the firm will only be able to derive value from partners most similar to the original partner. This, in turn, will circumscribe which opportunities the firm can pursue. A great example comes from research in young solar panel markets, where solar panel firms have to work closely with other firms (eg., engineering firms, installation firms, etc.). If one of these partners goes out of business, they aren’t easy to replace: the solar panel firm would need to find a partner whose idiosyncratic traits most aligned with those of the original partner.

What are the larger implications of this research?

Scholars in my field have always been interested in why certain innovations catch on and others don’t; they’ve also been interested in how firms obtain strategic advantage when markets change. More recently, these scholars have devoted attention to how firms manage competition and collaboration to gain advantage when their products depend on the success of others (think of electric cars and charging stations: neither can derive much value unless the other is successful). Though this work has provided numerous insights into how firms manage these complexities, it has said less about how their partners (“complementors”) influence them. Current research is starting to investigate the role that these partners play in shaping industry structures over time. My paper suggests that innovations and firm capabilities are shaped by these partnerships in a lasting way and that strategic agency may be taken for granted in current literature. Practically, it also suggests that strategists and executives should be careful about their partnership choices: given that they will be “imprinted” by the capabilities of their partners, they may want to choose those who have the most broadly-applicable or stable capabilities so that they can easily replace them should their partner leave the industry.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

Before I came to Cornell, I was a Venture for America Fellow and management consultant. I worked with many businesses in these roles, so I spent a lot of time thinking about which ideas become successful and which don’t. Something that always struck me was how many things have to “go right” for an innovation to be adopted by the masses – entrepreneurs had to perceive the innovation, it had to fit in with existing innovations, competing firms had to work together to make it work, etc. This paper really builds on these initial observations and underlines the role of firms balancing cooperation and competition to generate value for consumers (and themselves).

What conference did you attend with your Graduate School Conference Grant?

I presented my work at the 2020 Academy of Management conference. The meeting was supposed to take place in Vancouver, BC, but, like most conferences this year, took place over Zoom instead. It was still a fantastic experience, and it was great to see how much work our community gets done even while distributed across the globe. 

What did you take away from the experience of presenting at an online conference? If you have previously presented at an in-person conference, how did this experience differ?

The conference was definitely different from those I’ve attended in the past. Without the ability to meet others, I came to realize how important it was to crisply be able to summarize my analysis to communicate it to others: there were few informal interactions where participants could meet to casually discuss our work, so exposition of our ideas was generally done via very short introductions to group events or in scheduled Zoom calls. All in all, I was impressed by how many people I was still able to meet and how many presentations I was able to see.

Have the semesters of remote or hybrid learning helped prepare you for online conferences?

Making the most of hybrid learning involves leveraging new ways to engage with the material – chat windows, breakout rooms, different norms of engagement, etc. There are also some subtle benefits of online learning, such as being able to screenshot presentation slides. Having a semester of practice in these settings prepared me to make the most of them in the packed and fast-paced environment of a conference.  

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

Outside of research, I’m an amateur flutist, so I try to practice and perform as often as possible. My fiancé and I also have two French bulldogs, and we enjoy spending as much with them as we can.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I chose Cornell because of the strength of the business school faculty and the university’s commitment to interdisciplinary research.