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The Platform Paradox

How Digital Businesses Succeed in an Ever-Changing Global Marketplace

Mauro F. Guillén

Digital platforms are changing the rules of competition in the global economy. Until recently, it took Fortune 500 companies an average of 20 years to reach billion-dollar market valuations. Successful platforms now reach that milestone in an average of four years.

In The Platform Paradox: How Digital Businesses Succeed in an Ever-Changing Global Marketplace, Wharton professor Mauro Guillén highlights a key incongruity in this new world. Most platforms considered to be successful have triumphed in only some, rather than all, parts of the world. There are very few truly global digital platforms.

In more than three decades of studying multinational firms, Guillén has found they often misunderstand key aspects of what it takes to succeed globally, from culture and institutions to local competitive dynamics and pursuing markets in a logical sequence. Seeing multibillion-dollar companies like Amazon flounder in certain markets has led Guillén to research what it takes to create a successful global strategy.

In The Platform Paradox, Guillén details:

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitization and forced companies like Airbnb to pivot and adapt;
  • How platforms like Tinder and Uber have used local advantages to grow rapidly in different countries;
  • How traditional companies have transformed themselves into digital platforms, like Lego undertaking a digital revolution to emerge from bankruptcy and become the “Apple of toys”; and
  • The possibilities and limits to global expansion, as illustrated by companies like Zoom and Skype.

In The Platform Paradox, Guillén offers an integrated framework for these platforms to identify and implement a digital platform strategy on a truly global scale.

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About the Author

Mauro F. Guillén

Mauro F. Guillén holds the Zandman Endowed Professorship in International Management at the Wharton School. He served as director of the Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies from 2007 to 2019. In September 2021,...

Praise for The Platform Paradox

“Platform business models have the power to restructure entire industries, but they can be complex and difficult to manage. The Platform Paradox is a useful how-to guide that is helping our team at Coursera be more intentional and strategic as we expand our platform internationally.”

—Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO, Coursera

“Timely and insightful…the rise of global digital platforms and the implications for our future.”

—Nelson Chai, CFO, Uber

“Mauro Guillén’s latest release, The Platform Paradox, offers a clear course of action for the digital age. As Guillén so effectively argues, digital platforms must understand network effects to be successful on a global basis—and the entire business community must transform to meet the demands of our increasingly digital economy.”

—William P. Lauder, Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies

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