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Platform Foundations

May 09, 2016

Professors Erik Brynjolfsson, Marshall Van Alstyne and Geoff Parker

Sponsor:  MassMutual


Over MassMutual is in the early stages of creating a new social community (comprised of both physical and digital experiences) for prospective insurance customers.  The community is an example of a platform-mediated market, which is subject to specific and often non-intuitive strategic rules.  The new platform may be a way to inform current and potential customers, provide customer support, serve as a test bed for new market ideas, identify leads, and allow for long-term interactions with customers in an environment of trust and transparency.  It can also be a foundation for big-data analytics into customer behavior and preferences.  In a multi-year collaboration, The MIT Center for Digital Business will use its deep experience in platform strategy and big-data analytics to conduct research and advise MassMutual in these areas.  Common products such as personal computers, cell phones, streaming media, telecommunications infrastructure, travel services, and financial services can be described in terms of systems where developers build “applications” on top of a “platform.”  Such systems have become an important way in which firms go to market and organize innovation.  The goal year one is to investigate foundations.  We will describe platform market foundations and business models that firms use to participate in platform markets, especially in financial services.  As part of the effort, we will also lay the foundation for future analytics efforts on existing datasets and, eventually, data from the new platform itself.