One of the themes of the elastic enterprise is how effective platforms are at letting today’s businesses scale. What we see around us every day right now is the platform as a major plank of start-up businesses. The entrepreneur community gets it and is racing into platform development.
The big, significant platforms out there, such as iTunes, Apps Store, SkyDrive and Microsoft’s Cloud offer, are, or have been, very substantial investments and big, big bets on the future of content and services.
It’s questionable whether those investments are necessary in a strict economic sense – start-ups do platforms that can support a hundred million users for as little as $5 million. But larger companies have more at stake so invest in redundancy as well as critical routines. Nonetheless, the development cost of a platform today is within the grasp of start-ups.
Look for example at these:
Zimride – a new platform that allows people to book a ride, at a price, in someone else’s car along a familiar travel route, such as San Francisco to LA.
Curebit – a platform that allows merchants to present referral offers to their customers.
Eventbrite – a platform for organising meetings.
AirBnB – a platform for booking rooms in other people’s apartments.
DropBox – a platform for uploading and accessing content.
Swap.com – does what it says on the label.
The list could go on for quite some length. The point we want to make though is that the entrepreneur community gets platforms in a big way. Here’s an interesting effect of the platform. Curebit, which currently serves about 800 merchants, managed its roll out with a staff of 3 people. Dropbox had a 50 million consumer base on a staff of 70.
These are remarkable examples of scale relative to resource allocation. The entrepreneur community probably gets this more than the big companies do. But the reality of a new way to scale is catching on.