Forward Fortnightly Archive: Applying platform business models

October 7, 2021

In this article, we’e looking at what makes pioneering platform businesses so special, then surface some key take-aways for anyone growing their own. 

Applying platform-thinking to old problems. 

Scratching your own itch is an old line for anyone building a startup, but it's a great way to start solving problems. Take Koru Kids, as an example. In the words of their founder Rachel Carrell: “I set up Koru Kids to be all about three things: really great childcare, as affordable as possible, and as convenient as possible.” Starting out, she faced high competition and a limited labour force. But behind it, an opportunity. The typical incumbent ‘nanny agency’ required a customer to commit to expensive onboarding, strict hours and big costs - all a big pain. Koru Kid’s platform play makes them different: by connecting customers with vetted local nannies, they can offer flexibility to end customers and work volume to suppliers, whilst adding value (and availability) through training. It’s a virtuous circle that adds value to both sides of the platform. 

Sounds familiar? You’re not wrong. Check out David Sack’s famous napkin diagram of Uber’s model here.

Baking in intuition to drive creativity. 

Gravity Sketch is a 3D design platform that helps teams to create and collaborate in VR. Founded by Daniela and Oluwaseyi in 2014, they aimed to produce a solution that would help teams to develop great looking products more intuitively than ever before. It started with an insight. In Daniella’s words: “it turns out that people in creative fields, such as design, have a very strong spatial intelligence, however, the tools that we currently use to create digital 3D content are heavily based on logic, mathematics, and linguistics… Wait, what?” 

The team went back to the drawing board (literally) and focused on the expression of idea through a simple sketch. Now, Gravity Sketch offer a platform that allows real-time collaboration in virtual reality that's transforming the way that companies from Ford to HP and Reebok are thinking about how they think about design. Learn more about their journey here then check out their latest news - they’re making their collaboration software LandingPad Collab available to all, for free 🎉. 

Laddering up. 

Makers is creating a new generation of tech talent through their coding bootcamps. Established in 2012, the business was started to support career switchers to become job ready - whilst addressing the UK’s huge demand for skilled developers. Here’s what’s different. Many boot camps start and stop with the code. Makers don't. As Dana, Chief Joy Officer highlights in this post, transformation is not just about building new skills, but resilience to cope with the mental, physical, emotional challenges required to change a career. It’s why they’ve got one of the highest ratings in the market. 

Our tip: if you’re building a business, consider how you’re addressing user needs - and talking to them. Marketers call it ‘laddering’. Read more on the benefits and watchouts in this pithy article from the Martketoonist Tom Fishbourne here.

Systems thinking FTW. 

There’s so much more to building a successful platform business than connecting users. These examples show some of the magic a platform can create by understanding and addressing user needs then reconfiguring the roles, actions and interactions they take to create benefits for all. Read more from Rafael Ramírez on how systems thinking is the key to creating a value here.

Platform proof. 

The UK tech sector raised £13.5bn in the first six months of this year. That’s almost three times more than the same period last year according to Dealroom. Powering that trend are a record number of unicorns, with major contributions from Revolut, Hopin and Cinch's giant raises. What do they have in common? You’ve guessed it, the top players all use a platform model. Read more from CityAM here then get the full analysis - and what’s in store for UK tech scaleups next via Tech Nation here

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October 7, 2021