The Online Economy
The rapidly evolving online economy touches virtually every aspect of our lives. We now turn to Yelp to choose a restaurant, Airbnb for a weekend getaway, and Uber for a ride. The online economy creates new markets and content where none existed. With low capital requirements, the ability to experiment and adapt rapidly, and well-known successes, the rise of the digital economy provides new opportunities and distinctive management challenges for entrepreneurs and traditional businesses alike.
Online marketplaces make centralized decisions about how market participants set prices and develop reputations. For example, every design choice that Airbnb makes affects whether the platform is better for hosts or guests, whether discrimination is prohibited or a norm, and how easy it is for users to skirt existing laws. This will shape both the success of Airbnb and the mark that it leaves on the world. We will explore the principles of market and platform design.
Moreover, the online economy raises many new questions for entrepreneurs and the people and businesses that it touches. For example, what is the future of restaurant critics in a world with Yelp? How should Harvard Business Review compete in a world with declining paper subscriptions? Is Zillow a friend or foe to realtors? The answers again depend on the choices made by the platforms. During this course, we will take the perspective of the companies that are driving online changes, and also the businesses and individuals who are using, interacting with, and being replaced by the online economy. We will investigate strategies for creating successful online businesses, and explore the relationship between online and offline.
The online economy has also created unprecedented amounts of data, and the ability to rapidly experiment. Yet, organizations fail to receive the benefit of data and experimentation due to poor design and execution. During this course, we will develop a toolkit for analyzing the data that is created in the digital age.
At its core, The Online Economy: Strategy and Entrepreneurship equips students whose career paths will be closely connected to online businesses. This includes students planning entrepreneurial ventures in online businesses, such as founding or joining a startup; students whose careers as managers, investors, or consultants will focus on online businesses; and students whose careers will develop online aspects of traditional businesses.