Platforms disrupt industry after industry: Google disrupts advertising, Facebook disrupts telecom, Amazon disrupts retail, Apple disrupts music (again), Android disrupts consumer electronics, AirBnB disrupts hotels, Uber disrupts transportation, Zenefits disrupts insurance, Munchery disrupts restaurants, FreightOS disrupts shipping, Trucker Path disrupts long-haul trucking, WeWork disrupts office real-estate business…
But platforms are not created equal. To really understand how platforms work, you have to understand how platforms are different. Facebook is different from Google Search, Amazon Marketplace is different Amazon Web Services, Apple App Store is different from Uber, AirBnB is different from Waze. They all have different networks effects, launch approaches, pricing methods and competitive strategies.
It is painfully clear from our discussions with entrepreneurs, corporate executives and investors that there is an acute need for a way to classify platforms in different categories.
When you have a clear understanding what kind of platform you are dealing with, it’s much easier to see the types of network effects platforms depend on, what is the most appropriate launch strategy to kickstart these network effects and what is the best way to compete with a platform.
Such a classification will help to answer many common questions around platforms and avoid common mistakes. How do you spot a winning platform in the making? Who competes with who? How do you catalyse network effects on a young platform? What is the best subsidy strategy and how much money will it require? What is the role of technology and data? How do you measure platform velocity? What can kill a platform? Is openness a blessing or a curse? Is a platform business model always better than a traditional business model?
Enter Platform Hunt
Platform Hunt taps into the collective wisdom of people interested in how platforms work. Platform Hunt is a platform for crowdsourcing research on platforms.
We structured Platform Hunt as a taxonomy of platforms, which captures key platform properties, insights about how different platforms are born, live and die, together with examples of platforms across all the platform categories.
Platform Hunt will help entrepreneurs to find new ideas and learn from the experience of other platforms, help investors to evaluate opportunities and give corporate executives an early warning system for spotting threats presented by a new startup that may look like a toy in its early days.
How we do it
Platform Hunt builds on two seemingly unrelated ideas: “The Cycles of Theory Building” by Clayton Christensen and Product Hunt, a young startup that in no time became critical force in tech by tapping into the power of its community of contributors.
Clayton Christensen says that a good theory helps us to a) make accurate predictions and b) interpret the present, separating signals from noise.
Researches create a good theory through an iterative process where they start with an initial idea about a phenomenon (platforms). They then observe more examples that either increase their confidence in the theory or find anomalies telling that something else is going on. The anomalies are opportunities to go back and improve the theory.
Product Hunt is an active community of product enthusiasts who collaboratively discover and evaluate best new products. Anyone can submit a mobile app, a website, a hardware project or another tech creation. The product is vetted by moderators and can be up-voted by the community. Best products make it to the homepage and the mailing list.
Platform Hunt works in a similar way. All the data is public on data.platform-hunt.com. The project begins with an initial taxonomy of platforms and examples of different platforms types. Anyone can submit a platform example by filling a form at add.platform-hunt.com. Moderators review the example and classify it into one of the platform types. Each example helps either build more confidence in the taxonomy or find anomalies, which in turn help improve the model.
We start lean. Platform Hunt uses Trello (a project collaboration platform) for collaboratively collecting and managing the data and Medium (a platform connecting people, stories, and ideas) for sharing ideas and getting feedback.
Welcome and happy Platform Hunting!
— Michael and Sameer
Michael Vakulenko: I’m an engineer, analyst and entrepreneur working at the cross section of technology, business strategy and behavioural sciences. I’ve started my career in Qualcomm and later was part of several startups leading software and system engineering. Today, I’m leading strategy practice at an analyst firm that focuses on developer ecosystems and software-defined business models across mobile, IoT and cloud.
Sameer Singh: I’m a business strategy professional focusing on consumer technology, mobile ecosystems, asymmetric business models and disruptive innovation. I’m currently employed as an Industry Analyst at a leading tech startup. I’m also the author of Tech-Thoughts.net, a blog about mobile ecosystems and business models.