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互联网企业≠平台

Lee Hower 2011年08月24日

虽然“平台”一词在今年十分流行,但并不是每家公司都具有平台性质。

    眼下,无数的新创企业都以“平台”自居。可能很多人都认为,比起“产品”或“服务”这类字眼,“平台”一词听起来似乎更拉风,即使产品本身已经非常出色。

    但实际上,大多依托软件的企业并不具有真正的平台性质。至少我认为,将不具有平台属性的业务冠以平台的头衔以作为营销的噱头反而会削弱产品本身的吸引力。

    软件平台,顾名思义,就是可以用来搭建一整套业务的根基。它不仅包括技术基础设施,还包括用户体验框架,其形式多为销售渠道,以及形式明确、规模庞大的开发商生态系统。Facebook就是一个平台,而且是Zynga这类公司赖以生存的根基。苹果(Apple)的IOS系统是一个平台。微软(Microsoft)已经坐拥Windows和Xbox系统两大平台,在过去10年间一直卧薪尝胆,试图在移动终端在搭建一个新的平台。谷歌(Google)拥有安卓(Android)系统平台。软件公司Salesforce也正在试图通过内部努力和收购(例如网络应用程序开发公司Heroku)打造相关平台。

    拥有应用程式介面并不意味着平台的诞生。同理,为其他产品开发嵌入式软件也不意味着公司就成为了平台;这只能说明你的产品具有可扩展性或公司的主业就是工具开发。

    有很多不错的公司都不能被称之为平台,像团购公司Groupon和在线存储服务商Dropbox。即便是亚马逊(Amazon, AMZN)也与平台一词无缘——不错,它拥有亚马逊网络服务,但是该项业务额不到总收入的3%,考虑到目前这项业务的资本性支出正在上涨,其利润并不算惊人。

    所以,很抱歉,你的公司很有可能并不是平台性质的企业。但这倒是无关紧要。只要能确保公司的产品和服务市场杀伤力十足(这本身就是一项巨大的挑战),好事自然会找上门来。

    李•豪尔(Lee Howe,r @leehower)是商务社交网站LinkedIn的创始团队成员之一,自公司伊始至成长初期担任公司发展总监。他目前是NextView Ventures公司的联合创始人和普通合伙人,该公司总部位于波士顿,主要从事早期互联网化业务的投资。他的博客地址是 AgileVC。

    Countless startups pitch themselves as "platforms" these days. I suppose many folks simply believe "platform" seems sexier than just a "product" or a "service" these days, even if the product is great.

    But the reality is that most software-based startups aren't really platforms. At least for me, pitching a business as a platform when it really isn't tends to degrade what might be a really interesting vision and story in and of itself.

    A software platform is truly a foundation on which entire businesses can be built. It encompasses not just a technical infrastructure but also a user experience framework, usually some form of a selling channel, and a defined large-scale developer ecosystem. Facebook is a platform and companies like Zynga have been built upon it. Apple's (AAPL) iOS is a platform. Microsoft (MSFT) has two massive platforms in Windows and Xbox, and has been thrashing about for a decade trying to build one in mobile. Google (GOOG) of course has Android. Salesforce (CRM) is trying to create a platform both through internal efforts on Force.com and acquisitions (e.g., Heroku).

    Simply having an API doesn't make your company a platform. Similarly, simply having a piece of software that gets embedded in other products doesn't make your company a platform; that just means your product is usefully extensible or perhaps your a dev tools business.

    There are lots of incredible companies that aren't platforms, like Groupon or Dropbox. Even Amazon (AMZN) isn't a platform -- yes they have Amazon Web Services, but it accounts for <3% of their revenue and isn't terribly profitable given the capex & opex currently going into growing it.

    So I'm sorry to say, but odds are your startup probably isn't a platform. And that's totally okay. Just be an killer product or an awesome service, and if you can succeed at that (a hard challenge itself) good things will likely happen.

    Lee Hower (@leehower) was part of the founding team at LinkedIn, serving as director of corporate development from the company's inception through its early growth phases. He currently is a co-founder and general partner at NextView Ventures, a Boston-based investment firm focused on seed stage Internet-enabled businesses. He blogs at AgileVC.

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