The Business Model Project was a semantic database that used a novel taxonomy to classify companies according to their business model(s).
No generally accepted definition
The term Business model is often used to describe varying components of a business, but without consensus of what it represents. Depending on who is conducting the research, the inputs may be different. Existing studies have used: resources based views, activities, value-chain, etc. The overall result being that the concept is unclear and not fit for empirical use.
There have been several attempts at proposing a unified business model definition, but these have failed to become universal. Many of the proposed structures lacked sufficient detail to be of practical use. Others were completely theoretical and never used to generate a data-set.
Lack of data
There are currently no publicly searchable data-sets of companies organized by business model. Also, it is unknown if there are any such private databases in existence. It is unlikely due to the previously mentioned lack of a broadly applicable definition. Many of the academic studies that have generated a data-set were single use and limited in scope(e.g. e-commerce or manufacturing only) or built using non-public resources.
While information can be found about a significant number of organizations. Much of it needs to vetted. Many sites, including Wikipedia, allowing anonymous editing. This, coupled with a loose supervision structure allows questionable data to be introduced. In one example, a firm named CustomMade was listed in CrunchBase with a $400k seed round without a reference cited. The Wikipedia article about CustomMade was updated to also include this seed round, but uses CrunchBase as the source. Other unwanted behaviour includes submitting incorrect or irrelevant data as a promotional tool.
Many public sites focus on certain sub-sets of companies which would prevent them from creating a unified data-set. Wikipedia has a notoriety principle that excludes most firms like start-ups, regardless of their more interesting qualities like a unique market approach. Another popular website, CrunchBase, is mostly used for start-ups and contains little to no information about some of the largest companies in the world if they are not technology focused.
The overall goal was to create a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive (MECE) taxonomy that was structured to facilitate CAT analysis:
- Compare nascent start-ups to large public firms.
- Fine tuned and granular competitive analysis.
- Each business model is tagged across several dimensions allowing for a deeper understanding of how it creates and captures value.
- Companies that operate multiple models simultaneously have an entry for each model.
- Compare a firms' current model to their previous one.
- Contrast historical and contemporary business models.
The project was broken into three main phases: Academic Research, Stakeholder Engagement, and Technology. Below are milestones in reverse chronological order.
- 5/2013 - Public project completion.
- 10/25/2012 - Public demo during Boston Beta: Open Source Edition at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, MA.
- 10/24/2012 - API published on ProgrammableWeb.
- 9/18/2012 - BusinessModelProject.com available for public viewing.
- 7/16/2012 - Commencement of Technology Phase.
- 6/9/2012 - Commencement of Stakeholder Engagement Phase.
Special thanks to:
Tom Eisenmann - Harvard Business School
Felda Hardymon and Kent Bennett - Bessemer Venture Partners
- 5/23/2012 - Adoption of Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
- 5/17/2012 - Commencement of Academic Research Phase.
- 5/16/2012 - Launched informational website and Google Group.
Most of the basic data items originated from publicly accessible websites and directories including, but not limited to: EDGAR, CrunchBase, Wikipedia, and individual company websites. When applicable based on content and context, inferences were made to identify entity traits such as industry, profit motive, competition, etc. All of the unique business model attributes, such as number of unique models, model types and iterations, were determined manually.
For any given entity, information was captured and presented in three formats:
- Structured: Data that was accessible for semantic search due to labelling with defined properties and data types.
- Unstructured text and images: Commentary and references that were not semantically queryable, but available via full text search.
- Files: Presentations and documents that were available for review, but not parsed or otherwise made directly searchable. This could include a variety of topics: digitized print articles, product images, financial models, etc.
The Business Model Project was built with Semantic Mediawiki at its core. Apache Lucene provided full text search capabilities. Charts were generated using Graphviz. In browser image creation and modification was powered by SVG-edit. Additional FOSS that were utilized can be viewed at Ohloh. It was served using Amazon Web Services. Tools used for data extraction included Beautiful Soup (Python), iMacros, and HTTrack.
A 1 minute overview of the basic search interfaces. Originally placed on the homepage of the project's website.
Hat tip to Zotero for streamlining the research collection process.
A Multi-criteria Taxonomy of Business Models in Electronic Commerce.
Authors Andreas Bartelt and Winfried Lamersdorf Book Title Electronic Commerce Series Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 2232 Publisher Springer Berlin / Heidelberg Date 2001 Pages 193-205 URL http://www.springerlink.com/content/x1hhgdhedvbjp3xc/abstract/ Library Catalog SpringerLink
A Taxonomy of Business Process Modeling and Information Systems Modeling Techniques.
Author George M. Giaglis Publication International Journal of Flexible Manufacturing Systems Volume 13 Issue 2 Pages 209-228 Date 2001 URL http://www.springerlink.com/content/g626868411544583/abstract/ Library Catalog SpringerLink
The Business Model Concept: Theoretical Underpinnings and Empirical Illustrations.
Authors Jonas Hedman and Thomas Kalling Publication European Journal of Information Systems Volume 12 Issue 1 Pages 49-59 Date 3/2003 URL http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ejis/journal/v12/n1/full/3000446a.html Library Catalog CrossRef
The Complete Taxonomy of Web Business Models.
Authors Carol C Bienstock, Mark L Gillenson, and Trent C Sanders Publication Quarterly Journal of Electronic Commerce Volume 3 Issue 2 Pages 173 Date 2002
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