What happens when you give Hult students a platform? They build award-winning ideas, of course. Marcel Allweins and Markus Proesch, students on the Dual Degree program, won Best Conceptual Paper at the US Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship conference held in New Orleans this January, having expanded on an idea presented in class by Hult professor, Dr. Ted Ladd. Their innovation, The Platform Canvas, is a design framework for multi-sided platform businesses—the likes of service providing giants such as Airbnb—and received the accolade after rigorous, double-blind peer review by experts in the field. Where did the idea come from, and where will they go next? We caught up with the award-winning duo.
Hult: Marcel and Markus, congratulations! How does it feel to have your work celebrated at a conference like USASBE?
Marcel: Thank you. This paper started as a complete side hustle out of curiosity about the topic and a little challenge by Ted. It is great to see the hard work we put into the research and conceptualization now acknowledged. Especially by a forum that is proud of its entrepreneurial impact.
Markus: It is an honor to be recognized by the USASBE community. These people are thought leaders in their field dedicated to improving the teaching of entrepreneurship. To get a high five from these guys simply just feels amazing!
Hult: Have you always been entrepreneurial in spirit? Are there businesspeople or individuals you look up to?
Markus: I think both of us are business individuals at heart but with an entrepreneurial spirit. I believe, in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to blend basic business skills with the urge to step out of the box.
Marcel: Of course, there are these inspirational, big idols like Elon Musk or Larry Page who build amazing things around a noble cause. But for me, it’s more the general idea of building something on your own and making life easier for others—even if it is only by helping to grasp the concept of a platform business.
Hult: Some of the biggest and most revered companies of recent years are multi-sided platform businesses—do you think we’ll see more? How might they evolve?
Marcel: We’ve already seen a revolution-like shift over the past decade. The five largest companies in the world ten years ago were all classical businesses in the oil or financial sectors, like Exxon, Shell, and ICBC. Today they have been completely replaced by tech companies that base their major success on multi-sided platform models, like Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple.
I believe we will see way more incumbents figuring out a way to turn sides of their classical business into a platform model as well. Those who don’t will eventually be replaced by current startups that are able to leverage the network effect and create value in new user-focused ways.
Markus: I think we will also see a consolidation across various industries. More platforms will extend their services and merge with other platforms to provide a broader spectre of offerings, such as Uber moving into the food delivery market after “dominating” the personal transportation market.
Hult: What’s next for The Platform Canvas? Will you be launching it as a commercial tool post-graduation?
Marcel: Our main goal for now is to make the canvas available to as many entrepreneurs, managers, and students as possible. We want to enable new ventures and innovations by helping academics and professionals reach a better understanding of these platform dynamics which have reshaped today’s economy.
Markus: For this we set up a website, www.theplatformcanvas.com, where the canvas can be downloaded for free and is explained in simple terms by a short video. We also have been approached by a few ventures for advice on their business models. This could result in some welcomed consulting gigs post-graduation, depending on the demand.
Hult: Why did you choose to study business analytics as your second masters degree? Are you pleased that you did? Has the program changed or inspired your career plans at all?
Markus: My plan was to study business analytics all along. I did a minor during my bachelor’s degree and instantly developed a passion for analytics and analytical processes. The degree has only motivated me more if anything and reinforced my decision to follow this career path.
Marcel: Before coming to Hult I worked as a management consultant in the field of digital transformation. I learned that while my understanding for the business side was solid, I wanted to improve my capabilities in deriving data insights on my own. The business analytics degree seemed the perfect choice for this and so far I am not disappointed.
Hult: This project came about directly from a class topic—how has it been to work with Ted Ladd to develop the idea? Does Hult foster strong professor-student collaboration?
Marcel: Ted is amazing. He not only guided us through the steps of writing the paper but literally inspired me to design the canvas in the first place. I believe the quality and character of the educators are Hult’s strongest capability. However, in the end, it comes all down to how the student picks up on the professor’s enthusiasm. Ted is a great professor because he is incredible passionate about teaching and knows exactly how to motivate students in and outside the classroom.
Markus: It’s actually quite hard to get a hold of him. On campus, he is always surrounded by a knot of students involved in eager conversations.
Hult: Any learnings or words of wisdom you’d share with current student entrepreneurs?
Marcel: Hult offers many opportunities to get involved beyond the classroom. Many are obvious, like club work or the Hult Prize, but even more are in-between the lines. They show in an inspiration by a professor, an assigned reading, or a venture idea of a fellow student. It is important to confront all these pieces with a mindset of curiosity and the thought, “What can I make out of this?” This is where new ideas come to live and great ventures start.
Markus: If you have an idea in mind that you consider pursuing, do it and do it now! You’ll probably never be in safer environment with so many great resources around you. Let me put it this way, if you’re going to fail, fail now and learn from it. Take advantage of the situation you are in and go for it!
Hult: Thank you!
Marcel + Markus: Thanks for having us.
Prepare for your future: study business analytics as a one-year masters, or double up and really get ahead on Hult’s unique Dual Degree program. Find more about the course and your deadline to apply at hult.edu.