The Platform Delusion: Who Wins and Who Loses in the Age of Tech Titans | Jonathan A. Knee
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An investment banker and professor explains what really drives success in the tech economy
Many think that they understand the secrets to the success of the biggest tech companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google. It's the platform economy, or network effects, or some other magical power that makes their ultimate world domination inevitable. Investment banker and professor Jonathan Knee argues that the truth is much more complicated--but entrepreneurs and investors can understand what makes the giants work, and learn the keys to lasting success in the digital economy.
Knee explains what really makes the biggest tech companies work: a surprisingly disparate portfolio of structural advantages buttressed by shrewd acquisitions, strong management, lax regulation, and often, encouraging the myth that they are invincible to discourage competitors. By offering fresh insights into the true sources of strength and very real vulnerabilities of these companies, The Platform Delusion shows how investors, existing businesses, and startups might value them, compete with them, and imitate them.
The Platform Delusion demystifies the success of the biggest digital companies in sectors from retail to media to software to hardware, offering readers what those companies don't want everyone else to know. Knee's insights are invaluable for entrepreneurs and investors in digital businesses seeking to understand what drives resilience and profitability for the long term.
“In ‘The Platform Delusion’ Jonathan Knee takes apart the magical aura of one of Silicon Valley's biggest conceptual exports." —The New York Times
"A cogent, arresting argument...Knee’s untangling of the complexities of platforms and their backers is steadily accessible and surprising." —Publishers Weekly
“In pursuit of what makes for a powerful and successful tech company, The Platform Delusion by Jonathan A Knee opts for the broad scope.” —Financial Times
“Every generation flatters itself by thinking it has reinvented the rules of business. Knee’s book is a jolting and often hilarious exposure of our delusions that teaches, once again, that the fundamentals of business may not have changed quite as much as you think they have. Everyone should read this book.” —Tim Wu, author of The Curse of Bigness
“Jonathan Knee mercilessly cuts through the hype and wishful thinking about America’s best-known tech giants to show which really has the coveted competitive advantages likely to reward investors. I can almost guarantee you’ll be as surprised as I was.” —James B. Stewart, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Disney Wars
“In the worlds of business and investing, the word ‘platform’ has acquired an almost magical significance. Many believe that the term can manifest wealth and prestige for a business. But what does the word really mean? When does it mislead? And how ultimately should we as a society manage the role these businesses play in our life? It’s critical questions like these that Jonathan Knee wrestles with and answers in his important new book, The Platform Delusion.” —Bethany McLean, contributing editor, Vanity Fair, and author of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here
“Jonathan Knee has done it again. He identifies where value actually comes from in platform companies. (Spoiler alert: competitive advantage, just like your economics professor taught you.) The book is a must read for students of platform companies and their valuation.” —Glenn Hubbard, Russell L. Carson Professor of Economics and Finance and Dean Emeritus at Columbia Business School
“Essential reading if you really want to understand the age of the digital giants. Jonathan Knee brushes magical thinking and Silicon Valley hype aside and makes a compelling case that while technology changes, the fundamentals of business never do.” —Mark Thompson, chairman of Ancestry and former CEO and president at The New York Times Company
“Jonathan combines the gimlet eye of a banker with the methodical rigor of an academic to produce a deeply thought-out look at the innards of tech industry business models.” —Mark Colodny, co-head of private equity and global head of technology at Warburg Pincus
“The nation’s best business writer.” —Michael Wolff, USA Today
About the Author
Jonathan A. Knee is the author of The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade That Transformed Wall Street and the co-author of The Curse of the Mogul. Professor Knee’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and elsewhere. Knee is a Professor of Finance and Economics at the Columbia Graduate School of Business, and has previously taught at Northwestern University. He is also a Senior Advisor at Evercore Partners, a boutique investment banking firm. Before joining Evercore, he was a managing director and co-head of Morgan Stanley's Media Group.