Business Platform Opportunities

universityofoxford.pngI have previously voiced the opinion that many less risky and less competitive mobile opportunities lie in writing services and apps for use by companies. In fact, many of the apps I have written for clients over the last few years have been in this category rather than being ‘for sale’ or freemium. At ForumOxford last Friday, Haydn Shaughnessy, contributor to Forbes, gave us insight into opportunities to build business platforms.

Haydn encouraged us to second guess what enterprises need. Companies need an elastic platform with an API/SDK upon which ‘adjacent’ business opportunities can easily be explored. Companies that have already done this include Autodesk, Bechtel and GE Industrial. Some developers such as Applico are already providing such platforms. There are opportunities across all sectors to teach, supply and support these platforms. To start, take a sector and ask who’s the ‘utility’ company for that sector. If there’s noone then there’s an opportunity.

The interesting thing is that many apps’ server sides have the capability to become utilities for that particular sector. For example, I have been working on a hospitality sector app and a health app (for use in hospital, not end users). In both cases the server side could be re-purposed/generalised and extended to provide for a general purpose back end for that industry together with an API/SDK and a SLA/support.

The second interesting point is that the use of such systems generates new data that itself has value. Distimo, who sponsored ForumOxford, is incidentally a great example. It provides a ‘utility’ for the app sector. The value is in the data it collects that ends up being sold via online reporting tools.

At Forum Oxford, Catherine Mulligan of ICL spoke of information market places and value chains which can be seen as manifestations of these sector utility databases. However, threats to growth of information market places include over regulation, onerous ‘health & safety’, the need to support and replace input infrastructure (e.g. for physical sensor inputs) and understanding risk models associated with the use of the data.