The Platform Building Catalyst Analogy

We can think of a platform growth tactics as catalysts between sets of users at the right time — very similar to catalyzing a chemical reaction.

In a chemical reaction reagents are added at specific times in order to react with other materials to create a final product.

In order to create a successful/dominant platform subsidies, value adds, openness, exclusivity, and fees must be applied in the appropriate proportion and timing, otherwise growth will be suboptimal or non-existant.

In fast growing markets with winner take all dynamics, the timing of applying these tactics becomes even more important. As competition emerges, users become dependent on other systems and new solutions are developed. Entropy emerges which requires more energy to overcome. If you wait too long, you lose your opportunity to catalyze the reaction and become a dominant platform. We can compare this reaction chart to the one below it with application of platform strategy overlaid.

Each application of strategy reduces friction to platform adoption leading to positive feedforward network effects. These effects build momentum towards becoming a dominant platform in a market.

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Same same but differently, David S. Evans relates platform businesses more broadly as economic catalysts themselves saying:

A business is an “economic catalyst” if it creates value by bringing two or more groups of customers together and getting them to interact. Catalysts create value by reducing transactions costs faced by multiple distinct economic agents that would benefit from coming together. Catalysts reduce search efforts, facilitate matching, and make it easier for the two groups of economic agents to exchange value between each other. In the traditional literature, a catalyst is referred to as a “two-sided market” or as a “multi-sided platform.” 
 — David S. Evans in Platform Economics: Essays on Multi-Sided Businesses
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