Comparing the Business Models of Platform Cooperatives and Investor Owned Sharing Economy Platforms

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* Master’s Thesis: OWNING THE SHARING ECONOMY Comparing the business models of platform cooperatives and investor owned sharing economy platforms. By Ronja Puranen. Aalto University School of Business Information and Service Management Spring 2019



“In the past decade, the collaborative economy has received a lot of attention in media and research. Originally the collaborative economy was expected to change the ways we consume and bring significant social and environmental benefits. In recent years the collaborative economy has, however, also received a lot of criticism especially in terms of worker rights and the ways in which value is distributed within the sector. One possible solution to this could be platform cooperatives, that is, sharing economy platforms that are owned by its customers, workers or other stakeholders. The premise of platform cooperatives is that if workers or customers are the owners of the platform, their rights are better protected and that the profits would be distributed straight to those that are in a key role in creating value. There is very little research done on platform cooperatives, and this thesis aims to contribute to that research gap. The main focus of this thesis is to look at the differences and similarities in business models between platform cooperatives and investor owned sharing economy platforms. Another objective of this thesis is also to look at how the business model canvas as a tool should take into account the alternative starting point and way of organizing economic activity of platform cooperatives. The framework of this research is the business model canvas by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010). The business model canvas is a widely used tool in mapping out what value the company is generating and for who as well as what kind of resources, activities and partners it is using to deliver that value. The method used for this study is multiple case study. Four platform cooperatives were selected from the most common types of platform cooperatives along with four investor owned counterparts that had a similar offering. The main differences emerged in the value proposition, customer relationships and key partners while the companies resembled each other in terms of channels, key activities and key resources. In addition, an adapted business model canvas is derived that takes better into account the different starting point of doing business of platform cooperatives. “