A quick lesson about online platforms
Remember the time when you booked a flight on an airline by calling their toll-free number or logging onto their website? Hmm, don’t recall such a time? That’s because most travelers today head to Kayak, Hipmunk, Vayamundo, Flights.com or Google Flights to search for the best routes and prices from all available airlines.
Remember when you called the Marriott Hotel to book a few nights for a trip? Or, rather… when you logged onto Kayak, Hotels.com, Expedia, HomeAway or AirBnB to browse all the offerings, check prices and amenities, and then you booked through them.
You actually used a few of the internet’s most popular “platforms“. The digital age has spawned the rise of online software platforms, where marketplaces and transactions occur online, at large scales.
Our “old” global economy once was dominated by distributors, and the internet was seen as a way to shift away from aggregators to direct seller and buyer relationships. The hope was that the removal of intermediaries between consumers and producers would allow smaller companies to flourish. But as before, intermediaries (middlemen, in earlier vernacular) have built powerful online platforms which, while useful for consumers at first, ultimately can lead to complete domination of their markets, leading to monopolies where the middlemen (and their investors) scrape nearly all the available profit and attention in the marketplace. (e.g. Craigslist decimated newspaper advertising with its free classifieds; Facebook threatens investigative journalism with its “news” feed; Amazon put most booksellers and some retailers out of business and beat Ebay; Google did it to publishers, Uber is doing it to Taxis, et al.)
Yes, these platforms can reduce friction, increase sales volumes, and generate happier customers with better shopping experiences… until, as they grow, the aggregators stop helping customers and actually start hurting each side…
How? By de-emphasizing the providers/sellers (you!) and making you just a commodity among countless other sellers. Their playbook includes selling preferential placement in their online marketplace, and eventually controlling all the communications and commerce between you and your customers (i.e. obscuring customer contact info and taking a cut of every purchase). And if you’re a buyer or merchant in B2B, these new platforms try to control the relationship between you and your suppliers/growers as well.
If you’re a “worker” in the new gig economy, the euphemism is “the sharing economy” where the platform (think Uber, Lyft, AirBnB etc.) sets the terms of engagement for workers and the buyers. These platforms earn billions of dollars by scraping every transaction between every participant, and they force prices down to commodity levels.
So…. what can be done about this?
We here at Make/Grow Local refuse to allow another important, growing marketplace—perhaps the most important market concerning sustainable food production and artisanal, independent livelihoods— to be “disrupted” by even more closed, proprietary systems.
Thus, we are pleased to offer you the Make/Grow Local community marketplace, which:
- takes no cut of your sales and has no fees;
- connects each party (buyers and sellers) directly and transparently to each other;
- offers powerful discovery and marketing tools to you for free;
- directly supports the local maker movement;
- pledges to keep innovating and providing solutions to ease logistics and growth;
- is an open platform, to encourage an ecosystem of 3rd-party solutions to solve growth and infrastructure problems that delivering local food/goods at scale requires.
in the hopes of encouraging the acceleration of a mutually-beneficial, frictionless, healthy ecosystem of innovative makers and growers, and the merchants and sellers thoughtful enough to source them.
Please join us as we build out the only local-focused marketplace run by and for makers and growers—and the buyers who care enough to source local.