In 2012, I started my Expedition into the platform economy. Embarking with the conviction that the rise of the platform economy would influence every sector within the next 10 years, I took it on me to discover and describe the landscape, to analyze the dilemmas, and to figure out future scenarios. The expedition’s key question has always been this: What has to happen in order to see the platform economy reach its full potential in a way in which all stakeholders will take the right advantage of it?
Since 2012, I’ve traveled 13 countries where I interviewed and talked to over 400 entrepreneurs and experts in regard of this development, I visited dozens of meetings in the role of speaker or researcher and published hundreds of videos, articles, blogs, and news letters to share my views and thoughts. With this unique knowledge, the renown and the network in the pocket, I now advise many local and national government bodies, corporates and nonprofits, and the media refers to me as an expert about two to three times per month.
Although I dare to say that I’ve gained unique expertise, I also know that many of my questions haven’t been answered yet. On the one hand, I had the opportunity to choose to capitalize my knowledge and the investment of 5 years of my life and the energy by advising organizations on how to make the transition to a platform model. Financially interesting, but it didn’t seem a good idea to me to leave the exploration of such an amazingly interesting development at a time like this.
Pressing platform questions
When you’re looking at the biggest challenges of the platform economy, baring the reaching of full potential in a way in which all direct and indirect stakeholders take fair advantage of it in mind, the following two questions stand out:
- Although the platforms we know nowadays facilitate the ‘empowerment’ of the individual, the ownership and the governance of the platform is in the hand of a small group of shareholders. Prioritizing stakeholders’s interest, combined with the dependency of the user, may entail unwanted (social) effects. Are there any other options?
- Where the beginning of the era was marked by paying much attention to the technical part of (the impact of) platforms, the discussion shifts more and more to the chances as well as to the threats of platforms to our society. Platforms lower thresholds and offer opportunities for education, work, care and social contact. The key question is: Do platforms really increase the chances on work, income and meaning of life.
These are the most important question which contribute to a sustainable and inclusive platform model. Questions that haven’t been answered yet.
Although I cooperated with many different parties and individuals over the first 5 years of the expedition, it still was pretty much a ‘solo’ expedition. From today onwards this will be different. With due pride, I announce the second part of my expedition within the platform economy. During the coming 18 months, starting from today, I’ll be dealing on a part-time basis with two researches regarding both questions mentioned before at the ‘Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development’ at Utrecht University.
One research will focus on the chances and obstacles of platform cooperatives and will be a exploration of platform models based on shared ownership and governance. Users of platforms gathering together to cooperate and invest in their own app to provide a local alternative to huge platform monopolies happens in the USA more and more frequently. One famous example is Denver’s Green Taxi; 800 drivers invested 2,000 USD each in order to develop their own app, with which they currently possess a market share of 34%. I’ve been dealing with this topic for some time now, and visited platform cooperative congresses in London and New York last year. Now I’ve been given the opportunity to fully focus on this topic.
The second research focusses, under the title ‘Platform society: new chances for inclusiveness’, on the extent in which different platforms create new chances in society. The research aims to gain insight in the effects of platforms on the economical and social position of the youth, and on the policy options and instruments to increase the inclusiveness of platforms. With this research, I focus on sharing platforms, labor platforms and knowledge platforms.
Both researches will be under the leadership of –and in cooperation with– Koen Frenken, Professor in innovations science at the Utrecht University. Our cooperation has started quite a few years ago; among others, we co-wrote an article in The Guardian, and now created the opportunity to really work together.
The other half
While dedicating three days a week to the Utrecht University, two more days a week are left for other tasks. This scarcity forces me again to make decisions and to focus all the more. Which is convenient. I’ll be using these days to continue writing the books ‘The Platform Revolution’ and ‘Wavemakers’, and I’ll continue to share my knowledge and vision as a speaker on (international) congresses and meetings. I will also be available as an advisor and sparring partner to governments, corporates and start-ups in respect of the developments within the platform economy. Besides all this, I will definitely continue to share my insights through video interviews on my YouTube Channel (meanwhile there are almost 400 videos available), my weekly news letter and through my role as expert in the media.
This wonderful step forward is also a great moment to thank some of the ones that have made these first 5 years of the expedition possible. Without their help, I would have never reached the point in which I am now, and from which I can make this step. Seats2Meet.com, Schuiteman Accountants, MKB Servicedesk, DOEN Foundation and all Crowd Expedition interns and volunteers (Dave, Claartje, Kelly, Roel, Rosanne, Gino, Eva, and Jurgen). And the 300+ contributors to my 4 crowdfunding campaings to fund my expedition. For the first research, I’d like to thank the “Strategic Theme Institutions for an Open Society at the Utrecht University”, and for the second research “NWO National Science Agenda”. Of course, I’d like to thank Koen Frenken for granting me this opportunity, and most of all I thank my family, Jannette especially, as they have been supporting me during the last 5 years. Thank you!