Platforms gone wild.

“Platform business” models, done well, are the unicorns that fuel the imaginations of young entrepreneurs and investors alike. They’re designed to provide value, have a healthy network affect and have (potentially) multiple income streams.

Marc Ashwell
3 min readApr 13, 2021


Done poorly (typically retroactively), platform businesses become siloed and restrictive white elephants — when the intention of the platform was not one of value creation but rather a distraction from an already commoditised product, cost cutting or efficiency building for the owner.

Complicating business, rather than solving fundamental product or service issues.

A new study shows that “people systematically default to searching for additive transformations, and consequently overlook subtractive transformations.”

This means we don’t revisit the core of an issue necessarily, but build around it. This could lead to complicated, messy, misguided versions of what was originally a potentially good idea.

This happens quite a bit in he world of “same same” industries such as banking, telecommunications and entertainment. In fact those 3 industries tend to collide into each other quite often.

Ever noticed how you mobile phone provide is also a content producer and a mobile payment enabler? Ever noticed how your bank gives you access to devices and data and how entertainment companies are in constant partnership with device businesses build up technology ecosystems around themselves?

In a world where our access to information is potentially unlimited (not necessarily free), it’s interesting to see how so many traditional business are building massive technological walled ecosystems around themselves in the name of innovation and customer experience.

Ever noticed how we’re not talking about the product anymore?

Signs it’s going wrong

  • Is the business creating an ecosystem where all levels of interaction (support, purchasing, interaction) are only available “on platform”?
  • Is it ignoring the fundamentals of usability and users interacting with what makes them comfortable or is it insisting on new ways of interaction.
  • Are the core product offerings improving at all or only the interface to them?
  • Is the platform just a collection of smaller business offerings with no interconnection value?
  • Is the growth rate of VAS (value-added services) growing faster than that of the core product offering?
  • Are you able to uncouple products or are you tied in bundled offerings?
  • Do you have multiple accounts with multiple suppliers for similar services, and that once simple thing is now complicated.
  • Is your barrier to entry now which platform business is the easiest to use rather than the quality of their product or service?
  • Have you lost track of your login details and now have to open accounts with password management services to keep track?

To the businesses — Never forget your core product offering and your client.

To the client — don’t be distracted by VAS when the product you’re after is sub-par.

To the purists — you best go and defend the term as it’s been thrown around by corporations like a cat playing with a dead bird, not knowing what to do next while getting increasingly perplexed that all the fun has gone.



Marc Ashwell

Marketing Professional. Problem Solver. Not saving lives.