Online platforms where customers can safely and easily connect with each other and with providers have seen enormous growth in the past few years.
In fact, six of the ten most valuable companies in the world today are platform businesses: Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Tencent, and Alibaba.
In this article, we’ll explore what makes platform businesses so powerful and explore some of the biggest and most successful platform-based companies in the world today.
What Are Platform Businesses?
Platform businesses focus on facilitating interactions across a large number of participants or users. These interactions could be:
- Short-term transactions like connecting buyers and sellers
- Long-term collaborations to achieve shared outcomes
A platform business typically doesn't create or own inventory as a traditional business does. The platform itself – including proprietary user data or software – is the asset.
Used in this context, the term “platform” simply means an interface where separate groups of people come together to exchange some kind of value that benefits both groups. The platform typically creates large networks of users that other users can tap into – whether that’s a driver looking to find people who need a ride (Uber), someone wanting to connect with friends or other community members (Facebook) or a business looking for contractors to outsource work to (Upwork).
Even if your current company isn't a platform business, this is a trend worth paying attention to. There may be opportunities for you to introduce a new business built on a value-adding platform or to pivot to a platform model. So, let’s look at ten of my favorite examples of successful platform businesses today.
10 Best Examples of Platform Businesses
- Amazon: This giant marketplace brings together groups of merchants and consumers.
- TikTok: The TikTok platform allows creators and advertisers to connect with a massive user base.
- Apple: Apple enables interaction between consumers and software developers via its App Store.
- Fiverr: Freelancers and contract workers connect with businesses and individuals that are hiring on the Fiverr platform.
- Instacart: With the Instacart app, users can select their favorite grocery store, choose their items, and then an Instacart worker will purchase the selections and deliver them in as little as one hour.
- GitHub: GitHub – which was acquired by Microsoft in 2018 for $7.5 billion – is a collaboration platform for software developers who want to manage their coding projects in one place, share projects with each other, and track changes as multiple people work on the code.
- JustPark: JustPark has reinvented parking by connecting drivers who need somewhere to park with people who have a spare driveway or parking space.
- Zipcar: People in cities or on college campuses can get access to a car only when they need one by borrowing a vehicle through Zipcar.
- uTest: uTest lets you crowdsource usability testing for websites, games, apps, and services. Crowdsourcing is obtaining information or input into a particular task or project by enlisting the help of a large number of people online.
- WAX Marketplace: Gamers can buy and sell virtual accessories like NFTs (non-fungible tokens), gaming skins, and weapons in the blockchain trading platform WAX Marketplace.
The Future of Platform Businesses
The platform business model is incredibly powerful and lucrative. Long-term, these types of businesses will continue to dominate the market.
Even if your business is a traditional, linear business, it’s worth considering how the platform could expand or improve your current business model. For more on future trends, sign up for my newsletter, and check out my book ‘Tech Trends in Practice’ and ‘Business Trends in Practice.'