Disrupting the Disruptors or Enhancing Them?

Nonfinancial Considerations in Eco‐Innovation Decisions

Disrupting the Disruptors or Enhancing Them? How Blockchain Reshapes Two‐Sided Platforms

Daniel Trabucchi, Antonella Moretto, Tommaso Buganza and Alan MacCormack

Originally published: November 3, 2020 (PDMA JPIM • Vol. 37, Issue 6 • November 2020)
Read time: 54 minutes

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The importance of platform‐based businesses in the modern economy is growing continuously and becoming increasingly relevant. Specifically, the deployment of digital technologies has enhanced the applicability of two‐sided business models, enabling companies to act not just as builders and owners of assets, but also as orchestrators of external resources. Management research has, therefore, focused increasingly on the unique aspects of this model. At the center of a two‐sided platform there is a platform provider that enables a transaction between the sides, reducing the relative transaction costs. However, in recent years, a new technology emerged that challenges some of the underlying assumptions of this model: the blockchain. Blockchain enables the creation of a peer‐to‐peer network that is able to authenticate transactions, upon which applications and services may be built. It allows users to conduct transactions without the need for a central platform.

We explore how blockchain technology reshapes two‐sided platforms, focusing in particular on the role of the platform provider. The research is based upon multiple case studies, using an inductive approach to explore this emerging phenomenon. Our findings show there is a significant shift in the role of the central player that links the two sides of a transaction using blockchain. We frame this as a shift from a “platform provider” to a “service provider,” leveraging the blockchain as a Platform‐as‐a‐Service. Our work examines the peculiarities of this model, unveiling new dynamics in these businesses. Specifically, we show that different variables must be considered to classify two‐sided platforms using blockchain. Furthermore, the essential characteristics of two‐sided platforms must also be enlarged. For example, traditional platform theories emphasize the importance of cross‐side network externalities in creating value. In blockchain‐enabled platforms however, we show the use of “tokens” play a key role in creating different types of externalities between the two sides.

Practitioner Points

  • Blockchain is enabling a new type of two‐sided platform, challenging the existing business models of firms operating in the modern platform economy
  • Blockchain helps address traditional problems with two‐sided platforms (e.g., the chicken and egg paradox, and generating trust between the two sides of a market) while creating new opportunities (e.g., the use of tokens to create additional network externalities)
  • End users (e.g., the suppliers and customers that transact in the marketplace) play a more central role in blockchain‐enabled platforms, while the service provider becomes more of a facilitator, leveraging the Platform‐as‐a‐Service offered by the Blockchain provider
  • The concept of “value sharing” is central in blockchain‐enabled platforms; service providers share more of the value they create with the ecosystem of market participants

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