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Who won Web Summit: Ecosystems or Platforms?

William Gibson once said, "The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed."

While the desire to be a one-stop "platform" ruled the 2010s, the next decade of startups and technology companies will be focused on ecosystems: a network of bi-directional relationships and integrations with no "top" or "bottom." 

But, old habits die hard.

Last week we were at Web Summit, a technology conference that takes place every year in Lisbon, Portugal. It's a showcase for the international tech community, with more than 70,000 people in attendance, and five massive expo centers filled with early stage start ups.

In other words, the perfect place to see the positioning of more than 200+ startups. Are they platforms? Ecosystems? Something in between? Let's take a walk and keep score. First word to get 10 mentions, wins.

On the expo floor, each startup had a large poster behind its booth with a tagline. A quick scan speaks volumes. Here's an example:

IMG_1424

 

Okay, score one for "platform." 

platform7-1

 

Two..

platform8-1

 

Three....

platform4-1

 

Hm. I'm calling a "one-stop service" a platform:

onestop-1

 

Ah ha! A marketplace is pretty close to an "ecosystem."

Platforms: 4, non-platforms: 2.

marketplace1-1

 

An ecosystem is a network. Close game, 4-3.

network1-1

 

Coopsight helps team ecosystem tie it up! 4-4.

ecosystem6-1

 

5-4.

platform6-1

 

Oh no...
platform9-1

 

So. Many. Platforms. 7-4 platforms.
platform10-1

 

8-4, platforms.

platform11-1

 

9-4.platform5-1

 

A hybrid! We'll call that 10-5. Final score.

platform1-2

Welp, I think it's clear that platforms are still the primary way startups (at least the ones in Europe) are positioning themselves. We're betting that next year we'll be seeing more ecosystems (and those specializing in EcosystemOps) as bi-directional partnerships become more appreciated as the growth mechanisms they are.

See you next time, Web Summit!