The Power of Network Effects: From Organizing Your Favourite Spots to Reinforcing Uber's Defensibility

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Glasp

Aug 05, 20233 min read

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The Power of Network Effects: From Organizing Your Favourite Spots to Reinforcing Uber's Defensibility

Introduction:

In today's digital age, the ability to save and organize our favorite places all over the world has become increasingly convenient. Google Maps, as our main navigation app, offers a seamless solution to this by allowing us to synchronize and access our saved locations across all our devices. However, the concept of network effects extends far beyond just organizing our personal preferences. In this article, we will explore the importance of network effects in both everyday applications like Google Maps and larger platforms like Uber, and how they can be reinforced for defensibility.

Saving and Organizing Favorite Spots with Google Maps:

Having all our favorite places saved, organized, and easily accessible is incredibly useful. Google Maps provides a platform that allows us to do just that. By using this app, we can effortlessly sync our saved locations across all our devices, ensuring that we have access to our favorite spots wherever we go. Whether it's a cozy cafe, a breathtaking viewpoint, or a hidden gem, Google Maps enables us to keep track of these places and explore the world with ease.

Understanding Uber's Network Effects:

Network effects are often seen as the most powerful form of defensibility for companies in the internet age. However, when it comes to Uber, their core network effects are deceptively weak. Uber's network effect is often portrayed as a five-stage process, with each stage leading to the next and adding value for all users. These stages include driver supply, lower wait times and fares, more riders, more riders per hour, and more drivers.

Vulnerabilities in Uber's Network Effects:

Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that Uber deviates from the traditional formula for a true two-sided marketplace when transitioning from stage 1 to stage 2. The increase in driver supply is expected to result in lower wait times, but there is a limit to how low wait times can go without violating fundamental laws of causality and spacetime. Additionally, the utility perspective of riders shows that the difference between 0 minutes of wait time and a few minutes is minimal. Therefore, increasing driver supply beyond a certain point yields diminishing returns.

Barriers to Entry and Reinforcement Strategies:

Uber's core business is vulnerable to new entrants due to the relatively low barriers to entry in the ridesharing industry. To combat this, Uber has implemented various reinforcement strategies. These include leveraging their brand, scale advantage, embedding within different markets, creating a true two-sided logistics marketplace with Uber Freight, and building a three-sided marketplace with Uber Eats. Each of these strategies aims to strengthen Uber's network effects and establish defensibility against new competitors.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Focus on Defensibility: Founders should prioritize building defensible features within their platforms to withstand competition. Identifying and reinforcing network effects can be a crucial aspect of achieving this defensibility.
  • 2. Use Capital as a Competitive Weapon: Capital can be utilized strategically to strengthen network effects and gain a competitive edge. Investing in scaling operations, expanding into new markets, and acquiring complementary businesses can all contribute to reinforcing a platform's defensibility.
  • 3. Understand the Power of Language: Language and naming play a significant role in shaping public perception and establishing a brand identity. Choosing a name that conveys superiority or topmost positioning, as Uber did, can help create a strong foundation for a platform.

Conclusion:

Network effects, whether in the context of organizing favorite spots with Google Maps or reinforcing the defensibility of a platform like Uber, are undeniably powerful. By understanding the intricacies of network effects and leveraging them strategically, companies can establish and maintain a competitive advantage. Founders should focus on defensibility, utilize capital as a weapon, and recognize the impact of language and naming to maximize the potential of their platforms in today's interconnected world.

Resource:

  1. "How to Save and Organise Your Favourite Spots All Over the World Using Google Maps", https://medium.com/better-humans/how-to-save-and-organise-your-favourite-spots-all-over-the-world-using-google-maps-7e421eb0e58d (Glasp)
  2. "The Intentional Network Effects of Uber", https://www.nfx.com/post/the-network-effects-map-nfx-case-study-uber/ (Glasp)

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