BCG Henderson Institute

Generic filters

This article is the sixth in a series that offers executives practical guidance on business ecosystems. The modular design of this installment allows you to read it in its entirety or jump to the strategic questions that are most relevant to your company.

From media and technology to energy and mining—no major industry is untouched by the rise of business ecosystems. These dynamic groups of largely independent economic players working together to deliver solutions that they couldn’t muster on their own come in two flavors: transaction ecosystems in which a central platform links two sides of a market, such as buyers and sellers on a digital marketplace; and solution ecosystems in which a core firm orchestrates the offerings of several complementors, such as product manufacturers in a smart-home ecosystem. Both types can quickly generate eye-popping valuations; since 2015, more than 300 ecosystem startups have reached unicorn status.

Given the success of this cohort of startups, as well as the Big Tech ecosystem players now numbered among the world’s most valuable companies, it’s no surprise that ecosystems are high on the strategic agendas of incumbent companies. More than half of the S&P Global 100 companies are already engaged in one or more ecosystems, and in a recent BCG survey of 206 executives in multinational companies, 90% indicated that their companies planned to expand their activities in this field.

Sources & Notes