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Abstract

Exportation is an important growth strategy for family small and medium enterprises (family SMEs). However, exporting across multiple countries is challenging and requires substantial investment to tackle foreign market entry barriers. This barrier can be resolved by building network relationships with foreign markets; however, family firms are rarely strategic in forming international network relationships due to the fear of losing their socio-emotional wealth. Our study aims to address “How to select a business relationship that can stimulate the internationalization process while preserving the socioemotional wealth in family SMEs?”. Among available business relationships, digital platforms — with the capabilities to provide instantaneous access to global markets — has emerged as the most potential virtual partner for family SMEs. We draw on the Uppsala network-based internationalization model, supplemented by socio-emotional wealth (SEW) theory, to explain the role of digital platforms in family firms’ internationalization. We show that SEW preservation in family firms negatively affects the formation of international network relationships, but this negative effect is mitigated under the collaboration with trusted digital platform partners. Thus, we contribute to international business and family business studies, providing a clear direction for future research through the incorporation of digital platforms into existing family firms’ internationalization theories.

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