Modern Monopolies

How to dominate the 21st century economy with tech platforms

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Thanks @colemercer. I’m Alex Moazed and I wrote Modern Monopolies with Nicholas Johnson, @nlj_1. Our book is about the platform business model (Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat, Lending Club are all platforms) and what it takes to build these businesses. The book explains things like why modern monopolies are good, how to solve the chicken and egg problem, why eBay failed in China and Alibaba ate its lunch, how Uber and Airbnb kickstarted their marketplaces and plenty other platform relevant topics. Nicholas and I will be around to answer any questions or comments you may have throughout the day. We’d love to hear from the Product Hunt community with questions/feedback and we’ll be giving away free copies to the first Hunters that ask us a question about the book or platforms. Thanks and enjoy!
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Given your experience with evaluating successful platforms in the past, what do you think are the top 3 elements to creating a successful platform on mobile?
@xgarland Great question X. 1. Keep the core transaction simple. Don't look at Facebook, Alibaba, Apple or Uber and assume you should be doing everything they do today. As we write in the book, these platforms all started with one core transaction and only expanded to secondary transactions once the initial one had scaled. Building a network around one interaction is hard enough – building around 2 or more to start is next to impossible and will dilute your network effects. 2. Have a strategy for overcoming the chicken and egg problem. While modern monopolies like Facebook, Uber, Alibaba and Snapchat are all incredible companies, most platform businesses fail. And the biggest reason they fail is that they fail to overcome the chicken and egg problem. You need to get both consumers and producers to join your network, yet neither wants to join if you don't have the other user group. In chapter 8 of the book we lay out the 7 key strategies for overcoming this challenge. Before you launch, know which of these strategies you're going to use and why. Understand how you're going to subsidize value for your first users to get your network kickstarted, and why these subsidies (not always just money!) will get users to want to join. 3. Don't believe "if you build it, they will come." Get to market and be ready to adapt. Technology is what drives the success of modern platform companies, but technology alone is not enough, nor will it take you to modern monopoly status. Don't make the mistake of building incredibly sophisticated technology or what you think is a beautiful and intuitive UX without getting it into the hands of users first. The real value is in the network, not the software. Platforms provide value to users by facilitating transactions. Make sure that's your focus. Have a network roadmap – charting out how you want to start with your initial userbase and how you plan to expand from there – as well as a product roadmap. To borrow a quote from Peter Thiel that we use in the book, "user sequencing is underrated." Don't be like Color, and throw a $41 million dollar party that no one attends. (See here for more on that!:
Hi, I’m Nicholas Johnson, co-author of Modern Monopolies. Look forward to hearing your questions/comments!
I had the pleasure of being an early reader of Modern Monopolies. It's a great read about influence of the platform business model and I'd recommend it for anyone who’s looking to learn more about platforms, which are basically the most dominating business model of our time. It also contains plenty of strategies for ensuring any platform startup is doing things right. Kudos to Alex and Nick for the research found in here.
@nlj_1 Congrats on the book launch! As a Product Owner in a "Services Marketplace" I can definitely vet that this book knows what it's talking about. Interested to get your thoughts on the effect of "bots" on platforms. The book refers a lot to mobile apps as the dominant interface for platforms but with the excitement around Slack, Alexa, & Viv we're starting to see platforms without interfaces. How will this effect platforms in the future?
@domjespo @nlj_1 Hey Dom, big fan, are you speaking about "invisible apps" ( where there is no native mobile app interface (but still a text, email, tweet, or slack interface) or UI-less apps powered by voice (Siri, Echo, Now, etc.)?
@domjespo Thanks for the question Dominic. Bots are definitely a big trend right now (though Greg brings up a big point re: the precise definition). While apps have been the technology of choice for platforms for the last 6 years, that won't be true forever. One of the big themes in the book is the impact of technological change on these modern monopolies. Just as the shift from desktop to mobile saw Microsoft superseded by Apple and Google as the dominant platform companies, the emergence of new paradigms for user interaction could definitely change the landscape of platforms. The same will be true as VR and AR become more mainstream. Still, while the mode of interaction will change (it's not truly "without interfaces", it's just that chat or voice/speech becomes the interface), platforms will stay the dominant business model. Just look at the places where bots are thriving (Facebook Messenger, Slack, etc.) – mostly platform companies.
@gbattle @nlj_1 @rrhoover yup Dr. Battle - "Invisible apps"