Running an online marketplace? Here are nine must-read books to step up your game

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Not every marketplace is the same, so make sure the book is a good fit for the startup you are running

With the wealth of technology available, it is now easier and more affordable than ever to set up a marketplace. However, operating and scaling it sustainably is no small feat. Additionally, each marketplace faces its own unique set of challenges.

That is why Arcadier has compiled a list of recommended books about building the marketplace business. These books will open up business owners and executives to the role of online marketplaces in today’s digital age.

It will also help marketplace owners and operators understand the how they fit in the sharing economy by helping them learn from marketplace platforms that have made it big.

Here are our favorites:

Peers Inc: How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism

Author: Robin Chase

A pioneer of the collaborative economy, Robin Chase is the co-founder of American car-sharing company Zipcar. She talks about how the collaborative economy brings together the ‘strengths of localization, specialization, and customization’ from individuals and the ‘industrial strengths of significant scale and resources’ of corporations.

This, she argues, makes it possible for companies to grow more quickly, learn faster, address climate change, and deliver smarter products and services.

Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms

David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee

The concept of matchmaking has been around since time immemorial, and they exist today in the form of multisided platforms.

Evans and Schmalensee talk about the most valuable startups and dynamic public companies that have cracked the code of the matchmaking business model and what they have analysed and discovered during their study. Topics discussed include how to overcome the chicken-and-egg problem, reducing friction, pricing, and designing the platform to enhance the value of interactions.

Modern Monopolies: What It Takes to Dominate the 21st Century Economy

Authors: Alex Moazed and Nicholas L. Johnson

From constructing a platform, building audiences, to creating network value, this captivating read explains the platform business model’s inner workings.

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The authors — both experts on platform technology — take the examples of platform businesses such as eBay and Amazon, which moved beyond the linear model, highlighting their successes and the greater entrepreneurial lessons to learn from their failures.

The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism

Author: Arun Sundararajan

Sundararajan, an expert on the sharing economy, believes that we are transitioning into “crowd-based capitalism”, which he defines as “a new way of organizing economic activity that may supplant the traditional corporate-centered model.”

He discusses the overreaching effects of the shift in government regulations, the labor market, and our social fabric. Published by MIT Press, this book draws on extensive research and numerous real-world examples.

The Network Imperative: How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models

Authors: Barry Libert, Megan Beck, Jerry Wind

Successful businesses today are characterized by transparent and collaborative networks. With tech startups like Uber and Airbnb disrupting their respective industries, investor capital, talent and customers are shifting toward network-centric organizations.

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Based on research that covers 1,500 companies, the authors stress the importance of harnessing network effects, co-creation and value sharing with stakeholders to succeed in today’s digital age.

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy — And How to Make Them Work for You

Authors: Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary

Two-sided markets that connect buyers and sellers are revolutionising the way we do business. Dubbed as an “owner’s manual for creating a successful platform business”, this book explains the feedback loops and network effects that drive platform business dynamics.

It also offers insights into strategies employed by the world’s emerging platforms, ways to identify prime markets, how to monetise networks, and how to address essential marketplace issues like security, regulation, and trust.

What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption


Authors: Rachel Botsman, and Roo Rogers

The authors discuss the roots of collaborative consumption and how it is transforming the traditional landscape of business, consumerism and the way we live.

For those who are interested in new business ideas that utilise the social power of collaboration, this book explores the emergence of entrepreneurs that aim to serve this new market, amounting to the creation of networks of shared interests which simplify ownership and the logistics of collective use.

Platform Scale: How an emerging business model helps startups build large empires with minimum investment

Author: Sangeet Paul Choudary

Part of why marketplaces can grow rapidly is because they do not sell a product or service; instead, they are a “platform on which others can create and exchange value”.

Choudary identifies six core concepts for successful platform business model design and brings readers up to speed on the concepts of aggregation, distribution, interaction, network effects, and data as currency.

Version One’s Marketplace Handbook

Authors: Boris Wertz and Angela Tran Kingyens

Author Boris Wertz launched Abebooks, an online marketplace for books, way back in 1999. It was sold to Amazon, and Wertz went on to establish Version One Ventures. True to his roots, Wertz understands the importance of marketplaces in the future of ecommerce. In this short but comprehensive guide, the authors compile insights from working with great marketplaces and analyzing the industry.

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Don’t see your favorite marketplace guide on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

About the writer: Clarissa Santoso is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Arcadier, a SaaS company that powers next generation marketplace ideas. You can follow Arcadier on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for the latest insights on the sharing economy.

Photo courtesy of Gratisography.

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