How much should an investor trust the startup entrepreneur? A network model
Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, 11:2, 293–312 (2016)
Trust is an important determinant of start-up financing. In a simple agent-based model it is determined what the best trusting strategy is for a collective of investors and whether it is rational for an individual investor to deviate from this collective optimum. Trust depends on a measure of social distance and is the precondition for investment. Trust increases and decreases based on whether an investor is satisfied with the interest payments received from an entrepreneur. If an investor is dissatisfied, he terminates the relation with the entrepreneur. For assessing the quality of their own investments, investors communicate with other investors in a network-like structure. I find that, as a collective, it is best for investors to compare their returns critically in order to identify unproductive entrepreneurs, but to be tolerant regarding existing links to entrepreneurs in order not to terminate profitable relations because of minor productivity drops. However, it is optimal for an individual investor to deviate from this strategy and to be less easily disappointed, but to decrease trust in larger steps. In a sense, an individual investor can free ride on the others’ critical assessment. If all investors behave according to this latter strategy, too many unproductive firms remain in the market and the average investor’s return is lower than in the collective optimum.