Platforms Need Participants 💁🏼💁🏾‍♂️

Being a platform is the “end-all, be-all” business model. Namely, because other companies or individuals do most the work while you reap a significant chunk of the benefits.

- Apple and Google take 30% of all app sales on through their App Stores

- Airbnb takes 5-15% from guests

- Uber takes 25% from drivers

- Spotify pays $0.006 to $0.0084 to artists/labels

But, platforms are extremely hard to build. Kickstarting the network effects can take years, and there are many methods of getting them going.

Some try bounty programs, funding for early participants, crypto tokens, and grass-roots efforts.

If I were starting a platform, I’d follow the Apple method: build the platform and seed it with in-house built content and big players.

When Apple launched the iPhone, they didn’t merely ship hardware, they built many of the apps that came standard: Calendar, Notes, Weather, Photos, Camera, Clock, Safari, iPod

They also included YouTube and Maps built by Google.

Imagine how lame the iPhone launch would have been if they tasked 3rd-party developers with building all these “essential” apps. Growth would have been slow, and developers wouldn’t be interested.

This donned on me while reading “The Everything Store” about Amazon. Amazon started by building a focused consumer brand—creating a single end-point for everything you’d find in Barne’s & Noble and Walmart.

Once a consumer relationship had been built and their warehouse infrastructure working, they launched a 3rd-party sellers program, allowing anyone with relevant products to list alongside top manufacturers.

The program now contributes 25% of Amazon’s revenue.

If you’re building a platform, start by seeding the platform with your own products or content, then leveraging your success to bring on others.

Other examples:

—Uber (founders were the drivers)

—DoorDash (founders delivered)

—Airbnb (listed their own apartment)

—→Twitch (created content, pivoted to platform)

Counter Examples:

—Instacart (hired craigslist drivers)

— Decentraland (building infrastructure only)


Chasing NFTs 🏃🏼

Did CryptoKitties lead the NFT movement astray?

CryptoKitties is the reason I’m working on BlockCities. When I realized what new businesses could be built with art and now blockchain, I had to join the fun.

But now, I’m wondering if CryptoKitties got us thinking about the wrong thing.

CryptoKitties proved the industry — some say merely capitalizing on early projects. Regardless, they’ve made the most money doing it, despite dismal daily active users, and have inspired a lot of thought on the subject.

“NFT’s” (Non-Fungible Tokens) became the hot subject, many beaming with ideas of a new digital future.

But, if you start with the NFT and try to add value, you won’t get very far. You’ll be doomed to the fate of Beanie Babies, or worse.

Rather, NFTs should be seen as small tools in the bigger picture. We should be spending more time developing the experiences that use NFTs rather than worrying about the NFTs.

No matter how hard you shake an NFT, more value won’t appear.

I remember spending months thinking about NFTs — how to add utility and maximize their value.

In the end, it’s building the context that matters: the game, the marketplace, the identity system.

On their own, NFTs aren't worth a thing.

Working for Honor, not Self

I’m no expert of Japanese culture, but it really interests me and I’ve been seeking to understand it.

I watched the “Ramen Heads” on my flight to San Francisco — a documentary featuring Japan’s most important ramen chefs, especially “Ramen King” Osamu Tomita.

Osamu Tomita is a 4-time award winning Ramen chef with a maximlaist approach to ramen-making. He creates a dark brown, gravy-like texture to his soup broth and pairs it with house-made noodles.

He’s the most respected ramen chef in all of Japan and his shop is constantly full. He’s also a father. When the interviewer asked his elementary-age son what he wants to when he grows up, he said,

“Take over the shop. It would be a shame to let it go after all this hard work.”

I then watched “The Art of the Game” about traditional Japanese wood-cutting. Prints are made by meticulously cutting a block of wood depicting a scene with characters and context, dipping it in ink and pressing it to the paper.

The blocks take weeks to create and mastering the art takes upwards of thirty years.

It donned on me…as a millennial westerner, this level of humble service to a craft over decades of practice is seldom found.

The Japanese are not concerned about “finding their true passion” or doing “only what they were meant to do.” Our western ideas of enlightenment and self-actualization don’t translate.

They’re more concerned carrying on the age-old tradition or bringing their family honor. The Ramen King’s son wasn’t concerned about “saving the art of ramen,” rather, continuing the work of his father and respecting him.

I wonder what the societal ramifications of this difference are, I’m sure you can think of a few.

Are we getting “too good” to do humble jobs and simple crafts for decades on end?

If you’re Japanese, or study the culture, what did I get wrong? Or right?

Tweet me.

— PA