Business Platform Definitions


  1. A set of business and technology building blocks that serve as the foundation for building complementary products and services.
  2. A set of resources used in common across a product family that are also subject to network effects.
  3. An open standard, facilitating 3rd party participation, together with a contractual or reputational governance model.
  4. A business ecosystem that matches buyers with suppliers, who transact directly with each other using system resources.


Platforms are economically important and widely observed in modern economies. For example HMOs match patients and physicians. Real estate and auction networks match buyers and sellers. Airline reservation systems match travelers to airline flights. However, thanks largely to technology, platforms are becoming much more prevalent. New platforms are being created e.g. DropBox, Yammer, and KickStarter. Traditional businesses are being reconceived as platforms e.g. U.S. Postal Service, newspapers (Huffington Post). Retail electric markets are evolving into platforms that match consumers with specific power producers, allowing them to express their preferences for cheaper coal or more costly renewable power. In creating strategies for platform markets, managers have typically relied on assumptions and paradigms that apply to businesses without network effects. As a result, they have made decisions in pricing, supply chains, product design, and strategy that are inappropriate for the economics of their changing industries.


providing a set of theory, frameworks, and tools to analyze and manage existing businesses and to develop launch strategies for new ventures. The diversity of industry coverage will provide a strong tool kit for students from diverse backgrounds such as finance, marketing, and operations.


Thousands of firms, from Facebook to Salesforce, now operate as open ecosystems that match buyers and sellers, gain value and market share from network effects, and harness their users to innovate. Drawing on cases from social media, entrepreneurship, enterprise software, mobile services, healthcare, and consumer products, students will analyze and learn to negotiate platform startup, convert existing businesses, and make vital decisions on issues of openness, cannibalization, and competition. Students will interact with execs of major firms such as Cisco and SAP and with startups. They will learn to apply concepts from two sided networks, industrial organization, information asymmetry, pricing, intellectual property, and game theory to real problems.