Connect with us


The Future of Platforms & Markets



Like every year, end of May is the moment when the fabulous and awaited Internet Trends report from Mary Meeker of KPCB gets published. I’ve tried to give a look at this amazing piece of work with a platform perspective: what do the internet trends we’re seeing mean for the future of platform thinking? That was my original question.

This year issue of Meeker’s peek into the state of the internet is characterized by a strongly quantitative analysis: less trends are spotted — most of them are actually recurring ones, such as the key importance of experiences for brand success or the penetration of voice and AI — and more numbers are provided to testify an evident truth.

We’re (almost) all connected.

Indeed, new smartphones sales don’t grow much anymore YoY, while global internet users are growing steadily at 10% rate: this basically means we’re buying less phones in the west (mostly due to Moore’s law slowing down and making new phone buying less frequent) while a bit of growth is still happening in connecting countries such as India or the African continent.

Giant tech companies are set to dominate the Internet of the present-future

In an internet where everyone is connected with anyone else and where we’re getting to the upper limit of attention time available (with screen time approaching 6 hours a day in the US), efficiency in connecting people with products and services is key.

Thanks to their data-centric nature and to the huge network effects that allow them to train machines and algorithms with an insane amount of data, Google and Facebook now dominate — and are on track to monopolize — global advertising, ensuring all of us can easily get connected with the right (?) product and services.

Amazon is continuously growing its footprint to the extent of, eventually, putting out of business, this year, the largest number of retailers in history. We’re finally noticing that retail as we know it (disconnected from the overall — digitally powered — buying experience) is cursed.

Giant tech companies are therefore dominating the business landscape, and the most interesting aspect perhaps is that they are continuously growing their feature base. Here’s the point: huge tech giants have something that other companies don’t have, they’ve network effects (and enormous user bases), and the agility to test and prototype new ideas rapidly.

While a traditional giant company may have the first, it’s likely failing on the latter; while a nimble tech innovation company may have the latter will always have to bounce back to GAFA to be able to leverage on their network effects to distribute and test new ideas to wider markets.

Facebook now encompasses all the aspects of our socially-connected life, Amazon now sells directly under its brands — or child brands — things such as baby wipes, batteries, or bed linen.

Tech innovations such as AI, machine learning and conversational interfaces (all on the rise) will provide GAFA with even more potential to create seemingly personal relationships with customers, increasing their potential to deal with long tails with highly customized services and self-customization tools to let customers make the tweaks that they couldn’t anticipate.

God only knows what will happen when the penetration of IoT and connected devices will really cross the chasm: everything wants to be connected, and when it’s connected, it will be owned by the GAFA.

Soon machines will be able to fake human relationships

We now have an internet made of enormous platform-infrastructures, connecting entities in their huge ecosystems, providing them with the possibility to find each other precisely, and to trade value to an extent we never experienced before.

What’s left?

A few days ago, my good friend and italian digital icon Fabio Lalli, blurted on Facebook that with giants like Facebook now encompassing everything social and spurring new features continuously (at least test-validating them), it’s really hard for entrepreneurs today to think of something new and valuable, and be able to overcome the bullying of the GAFA bringing it to the market.

Similar reflections could probably be made for e-commerce entrants confronting with and Amazon, or business automation innovators facing the market domination of Salesforce, or similar giants.

So what’s left for us to invent in this internet?

The effect of the penetration of the GAFA, in parallel with the everlasting effort of existing incumbents to componentize and digitalize their business through APIs  is leaving modern entrepreneurs with an interesting set of tools to leverage on:

  • the possibility to connect part of existing industrial business processes, through APIs, in more complex value creation models
  • the possibility to easily reach customers thanks to the efficiency of advertising and GAFA distribution
  • the possibility to leverage on abundant open code base and Everything as a Service

Despite “vertical” transaction-based marketplaces such as Airbnb and the likes have demonstrated that a clearly designed strategy and mission can achieve global growth and impact, I’m skeptical there’s still a lot of room for entrepreneurs to come up with a simple idea that can disrupt these transactional markets.

This may be hard, first because most of those simple markets are now already crowded with exceptional brands, and, furthermore, because it will be easy for GAFA and the likes — including these huge global transactional marketplaces like Airbnb — to jump into an adjacent market by enabling “just another” transaction type among their networks (think of Facebook Marketplace feature or the recent move of Airbnb into travel experiences).

It didn’t take much to Airbnb to move from beds and houses to experiences.

If just 4 percent of Facebook’s 1.7 billion global users turn to Marketplace to buy and sell used cars, Facebook would pass reigning giant Craigslist, as well as Autotrader, and eBay Motors.

All these considerations make me think that the upcoming one is really the age of the so-called market-networks. As you may know, the term market-network, was coined by James Currier, efficiently describing something that (in his own words):

  • “Use SaaS workflow software to focus action around longer-term projects, not just a quick transaction”
  • “Promote the service provider as a differentiated individual, helping to build long-term relationships”

Market networks essentially rethink, facilitate and transform all the complex business processes and social workflows that will never be interesting to GAFA (due to the high fragmentation and niche nature of the opportunity) radically improving the overall experience of users and — often — professionals involved.

Early examples of market-networks include the famous, Angelist, honeybook as mentioned by James in his seminal blogpost, but also growing brands like lendinvest or opendesk.

GAFA vs Market Networks impact growth model

Differently from GAFA and the likes, that substantially grow their impact by trying to climb the value chain with feature pullulation, still being attached to the idea to be attractive to anyone, market networks start by providing high value to a restricted group of users (more in general to a niche market) and then grow their impact by trying to grow their ecosystem’s size, oftentimes creating multi-national branches.

We can reasonably expect the market networks of the future to be able to leverage more on integrating utilities, telco, retail and other traditional industries through APIs and smart contracts, growing their potential and the value generated for participants.

A bit of foresight — The Infinite Tail

The evolution of the internet infrastructure is pushing the concept of the long tail as we know it even further. We could argue we’re evolving into what could be called an “infinite tail”.

Having everyone connected to anyone else in a shared space of trade, and having enabling technologies at hand to leverage on almost infinite “resources as a service” — increasingly also in the “real” world thanks to API integrations and smart contracts — is going to annihilate the cost of organizing trade among uncoordinated entities.

We can expect then, to evolve into an age where ever-larger global, social and technological infrastructures — soon to be decentralized thanks to technologies like the blockchain — will power small markets in what we could call, indeed, an internet of markets.

In these small markets— be it a small consulting company working with ten key customers, a digitally enabled artisan carefully creating products for her small fanbase or, a music artist living off local shows and special vinyl record sales — reputation will be the key enabler of this infinite tail economy and players will thrive on strong ties and long term relationships, exactly the context that market networks should be set to address, most likely with a decentralized approach (empowering myriads of different small networks) that doesn’t necessarily need network effects to exist and thrive.

reputation will be the key enabler of this “infinite tail” economy made of strong ties and long term relationships, empowering myriads of small networks

Now seemingly alienating technologies like AR or VR will end up helping us bring presence to remoteness, tearing down the last barriers to a world of thriving, relational, infinite small markets. At that moment in time the evolution towards a real global market age will be completed and we’ll be out of the Taylor bathtub forever.

Platforms of the future may be different in shape and strategy but we can be reasonably sure that they will still need to be designed around the idea that relationships play a central role in modern business.


About the Author

This article was written by Simone Cicero of PlatformDesignToolKit


Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

This article was produced by Tech Dominator. see more.

Continue Reading


How to Create Buzz around Your Startup Idea



Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.

– Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

There is something very exciting starting up a business. Startups offer you a chance to do something fresh and take new ideas to the public. But if you’re going to succeed, you need to get it right from the very start of the journey. Creating buzz around your startup’s launch is possible, and here are some ideas to help you do it.

Blog About Your Startup Journey

This is a great thing to do if you want to create a personable and refreshing brand image. People like to see how your business is doing and how it grows from an idea into a fully fledged business. Blog about what you’re doing and how your business is expanding. If you can develop an audience of readers ahead of your startup’s official launch, it will be easier for you to hit the ground running. You can then make the blog the voice of the company as it grows and starts to turn a profit. This is something that you should think very carefully about when starting up a business.

Make Plenty of Announcements

You should try to make a lot of announcements when you are leading up to the launch of your startup. There are plenty of people out there that will be interested in hearing about what you’re doing. You need to start by creating a strong presence on all the key social media sites. If you can do this, you will build up an audience that will then be receptive to your messages. They will also be there to spread the word and share announcements with their friends on social media platforms. This can be hugely important when you’re trying to raise brand awareness and expose your announcements to as many people as possible.

Organize an Event and Invite People

Organizing a real event that people can turn up to and attend can be a great idea. It makes your startup’s official launch feel more real. If you just set a random date for the launch and don’t mark it in any way, it will be much more difficult to create a buzz. Hire a stage, sound system and find bleacher rentals to host the event. Then you can write a speech and make a plan for the schedule of the launch. If you can do this well, you will create a lot of buzz, and maybe get some more coverage for the startup too.

Reach Out to People Who Can Give You Publicity

There are plenty of people out there that might be able to help you achieve the publicity and coverage you crave. When your business is being talked about, people will hear about your brand and what it’s doing. So, you need to make sure that you reach out to many people in the press, the media and the blogosphere who can help you. There are many business magazines and websites that write profiles of new business and young entrepreneurs. If you can contact some of these people, they might be interested in offering you some coverage. Don’t underestimate how important this could be. Hopefully these ideas will help you with starting up a business.


About the Author

This article was produced by SolVibrations is a multi-author self improvement blog, aiming to inspire creativity within.

Continue Reading