Marshall Van Alstyne

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Leading Authority on Two-Sided Markets, Focused on Helping Organizations Thrive in the “Platform Economy;” Business Strategist, Scientist and Economist; Co-author of the International Best-seller, “Platform Revolution” (2016); Winner, Thinkers50 2019 Digital Thinking Award; Professor of Management, Boston University

Biography

Marshall Van Alstyne – professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business and Digital Fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy – is a leading authority on platform businesses and how they are transforming the future. Uber. Airbnb. Amazon. Apple. Google. PayPal. Alibaba. These seemingly disparate, cutting-edge companies upended entire industries by harnessing a single phenomenon: platforms.

Van Alstyne’s current focus – in the classroom and in the boardroom – centers on scaling his insights and knowledge to help organizations navigate, adapt and thrive in the platform economy. Platforms beat products every time and he believes platforms are just beginning to revolutionize a range of economic and social arenas, from B2B to B2C, and from health care and finance to energy and government. His research shows that, on average, a $2 billion firm can gain about 4% market cap in roughly six months after becoming a platform company.

“It’s no overstatement to say that the platform business model is one of the most important economic and social developments of our time,” Van Alstyne explains. “Structural change in the Internet era is as significant as the Industrial Revolution was a century ago. But surprisingly, many people — even savvy business executives — remain unaware of how this is happening or what to do about it.”

In 2016, Van Alstyne co-authored with Geoff Parker the international best-selling book “Platform Revolution” (W.W. Norton & Co.), the first authoritative, fact-based guide to understanding and navigating platform models. Together, they developed the concept of two-sided markets, which is used extensively in platform business models. They also developed the concept of inverted firms, whereby value creation moves from inside to outside the organization. Their work won them the Thinkers50 2019 Digital Thinking Award.

Van Alstyne is regularly interviewed by Bloomberg, The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and others. In uniquely conversational presentations and interactive workshops, Van Alstyne continues to help leaders understand and spot new opportunities in the platform economy.

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Marshall Van Alstyne is an information economist and expert on IT economics and strategy. He’s made fundamental contributions to IT productivity and theories on network effects. His co-authored work on two-sided networks – “Strategies for Two-Sided Markets” – is a Harvard Business Review top 50 of all time and taught in business schools worldwide. His “Pipelines, Platforms and New Rules of Strategy” is a Harvard Business Review “must read” for anyone interested in strategy and innovation.

A frequently cited and award-winning academic, Van Alstyne holds multiple patents on privacy protection and spam prevention methods, and he was among the first to measure the dollar value of social networks. Van Alstyne, with Parker, co-founded the MIT Platform Summit and Boston University Symposium, which they have co-chaired since 2013. In 2020, Van Alstyne received the Inaugural Practical Impacts Award from the Information Systems Society of the  Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Van Alstyne received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Yale University, and both his master’s and doctorate in Information Systems Economics from MIT.

Marshall Van Alstyne is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Van Alstyne, Marshall

Biography

Marshall Van Alstyne – professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business and Digital Fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy – is a leading authority on platform businesses and how they are transforming the future. Uber. Airbnb. Amazon. Apple. Google. PayPal. Alibaba. These seemingly disparate, cutting-edge companies upended entire industries by harnessing a single phenomenon: platforms.

Van Alstyne’s current focus – in the classroom and in the boardroom – centers on scaling his insights and knowledge to help organizations navigate, adapt and thrive in the platform economy. Platforms beat products every time and he believes platforms are just beginning to revolutionize a range of economic and social arenas, from B2B to B2C, and from health care and finance to energy and government. His research shows that, on average, a $2 billion firm can gain about 4% market cap in roughly six months after becoming a platform company.

“It’s no overstatement to say that the platform business model is one of the most important economic and social developments of our time,” Van Alstyne explains. “Structural change in the Internet era is as significant as the Industrial Revolution was a century ago. But surprisingly, many people — even savvy business executives — remain unaware of how this is happening or what to do about it.”

In 2016, Van Alstyne co-authored with Geoff Parker the international best-selling book “Platform Revolution” (W.W. Norton & Co.), the first authoritative, fact-based guide to understanding and navigating platform models. Together, they developed the concept of two-sided markets, which is used extensively in platform business models. They also developed the concept of inverted firms, whereby value creation moves from inside to outside the organization. Their work won them the Thinkers50 2019 Digital Thinking Award.

Van Alstyne is regularly interviewed by Bloomberg, The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and others. In uniquely conversational presentations and interactive workshops, Van Alstyne continues to help leaders understand and spot new opportunities in the platform economy.

# # #

Marshall Van Alstyne is an information economist and expert on IT economics and strategy. He’s made fundamental contributions to IT productivity and theories on network effects. His co-authored work on two-sided networks – “Strategies for Two-Sided Markets” – is a Harvard Business Review top 50 of all time and taught in business schools worldwide. His “Pipelines, Platforms and New Rules of Strategy” is a Harvard Business Review “must read” for anyone interested in strategy and innovation.

A frequently cited and award-winning academic, Van Alstyne holds multiple patents on privacy protection and spam prevention methods, and he was among the first to measure the dollar value of social networks. Van Alstyne, with Parker, co-founded the MIT Platform Summit and Boston University Symposium, which they have co-chaired since 2013. In 2020, Van Alstyne received the Inaugural Practical Impacts Award from the Information Systems Society of the  Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Van Alstyne received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Yale University, and both his master’s and doctorate in Information Systems Economics from MIT.

Marshall Van Alstyne is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Power of the Platform: How to Harness the Platform Revolution to Future-Proof Your Business

Platform businesses have existed for years. Malls link consumers and merchants. Newspapers connect subscribers and advertisers. What’s changed today is that information technology (IT) has profoundly reduced the need to own physical infrastructure and assets, making building and scaling platforms vastly simpler and cheaper. The digital platform business model is the future of business, and those that fail to learn the new rules will struggle to compete, says Marshall Van Alstyne. Based on his international best-selling book “Platform Revolution,” he offers leaders a roadmap for how to run a successful platform business today. In this presentation, he drills down into the strategies behind some of the most successful platform-based companies – including up-and-coming digital companies like Tinder and SkillShare and traditional companies like Nike and McCormick Spice who have built platforms in non-technology markets. He also shows how platform strategies drive growth at large industrial and B2B firms such as Siemens, Mahindra and John Deere. Through a wider lens, he then offers participants a view into which markets are currently ripe for a platform revolution, including health care, finance, construction, education and energy, and explains how to navigate in and adapt to the changing marketplace. Van Alstyne also shows why platforms almost always beat products.

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Recommendations

Praise for “Platform Revolution”

“Thorough and often provocative.”

— Jeremy G. Philips, The Wall Street Journal

“An authoritative guide to the role of online platforms: what they are, how they work, and what they mean for business and economics. Platform Revolution demystifies the concept by providing clear prose, insightful examples, and practical lessons.”

— Hal Varian, chief economist, Google, and author of Information Rules

“Platforms have transformed the economy over the last two decades, but the biggest effects are yet to come. Platform Revolution provides the first comprehensive framework for platform strategy and for predicting the winners and losers of future disruptions.”

— Susan C. Athey, Stanford University, former chief economist, Microsoft

Platform Revolution is a manual for the disruption of your industry. You can either read it or try to keep it out of the hands of your competitors―present and future. I think it’s an easy call.”

— Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT, coauthor of The Second Machine Age

Platform Revolution provides an exceptional synthesis of cutting-edge research that makes it must-reading for my MBA students. A key insight is that platform strategies can benefit all participants when they understand the underlying economics. Read the book and share it with your business partners. You’ll be glad you did.”

— Erik Brynjolfsson, MIT Sloan School, coauthor of The Second Machine Age

“In a very cohesive and comprehensive way, the authors provide deep conceptual insights and rich practical advice on platforms, the most important business organizations of our time.”

— Ming Zeng, chief strategy officer, Alibaba

“In the digital economy, platforms are transforming industries at high speed. Platform Revolution is an inspiring guide for business leaders to transform existing businesses to platform businesses.”

— Jim Hagemann-Snabe, former CEO of SAP

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