Tight and Loose Coupling in Evolving Platform Ecosystems: The Cases of Airbnb and Uber

  • Andreas HeinEmail author
  • Markus Böhm
  • Helmut Krcmar
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing book series (LNBIP, volume 320)


The emergence of digital platforms changes the way how companies interact with their ecosystem. Successful platforms like Apple’s App Store utilize an ecosystem of third-party developers to drive innovation. Those platforms are expanding the sphere of influence beyond internal resources and capabilities by taking advantage of a scalable ecosystem of external developers. However, until now it is unclear on how those companies establish a platform ecosystem. This article draws on two case studies in the form of ridesharing and accommodation platforms to illustrate how they transitioned through four evolutionary phases with the help of tight and loose coupling partnerships.


Digital platform Platform ecosystem Ecosystem evolution 



This work is part of the TUM Living Lab Connected Mobility (TUM LLCM) project and has been funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology (StMWi) through the Center Digitisation. Bavaria (ZD.B), an initiative of the Bavarian State Government.


  1. 1.
    Evans, P.C., Gawer, A.: The rise of the platform enterprise: a global survey (2016)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Eisenmann, T., Parker, G., Alstyne, V.M.W.: Strategies for two-sided markets. Harvard Bus. Rev. 84, 92–101 (2006)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rochet, J.C., Tirole, J.: Platform competition in two-sided markets. J. Eur. Econ. Assoc. 1, 990–1029 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hein, A., Böhm, M., Krcmar, H.: Platform Configurations within Information Systems Research: A Literature Review on the Example of IoT Platforms, pp. 465–476. Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik, Lüneburg, Germany (2018)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ghazawneh, A., Henfridsson, O.: Balancing platform control and external contribution in third-party development: the boundary resources model. Inf. Syst. J. 23, 173–192 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Orton, J.D., Weick, K.E.: Loosely coupled systems: a reconceptualization. Acad. Manag. Rev. 15, 203–223 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Moore, J.F.: The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. Harper Business, New York (1997)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Weick, K.E.: Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Adm. Sci. Q. 21, 1–19 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bateson, G.: Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Dutton, New York (1979)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gould, S.J.: The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Harvard University Press (2002)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Danneels, E.: Tight–loose coupling with customers: the enactment of customer orientation. Strateg. Manag. J. 24, 559–576 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Steensma, H.K., Corley, K.G.: On the performance of technology-sourcing partnerships: the interaction between partner interdependence and technology attributes. Acad. Manag. J. 43, 1045–1067 (2000)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Yin, R.K.: Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks (2014)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Merriam, S.B.: Case Study Research in Education: A Qualitative Approach. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco (1988)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Benbasat, I., Goldstein, D.K., Mead, M.: The case research strategy in studies of information systems. MIS Q. 11, 369–386 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Siggelkow, N.: Persuasion with case studies. Acad. Manag. J. 50, 20–24 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Klein, H.K., Myers, M.D.: A set of principles for conducting and evaluating interpretive field studies in information systems. MIS Q. 23, 67–93 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tam, D.: Uber teams up with GM, Toyota to get more cars on the road, C-net. Accessed 01 Nov 2017
  19. 19.
    Hempel, J.: Uber and the future of American Express, Fortune. Accessed 1 Nov 2017
  20. 20.
    DuVander, A.: AirBNB API Will Pay Developers with Affiliate Program, ProgrammableWeb. Accessed 01 Feb 2018
  21. 21.
    Tsotsis, A.: Airbnb Freaks Out over Samwer Clones, TechCrunch. Accessed 1 Nov 2017
  22. 22.
    Empson, R.: Airbnb Makes Good, Will Now Cover Up To $1M in Property Damages, TechCrunch. Accessed 01 Nov 2017
  23. 23.
    Hall, J.V., Krueger, A.B.: An analysis of the labor market for Uber’s driver-partners in the United States. ILR Review 0019793917717222 (2015)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ferenstein, G.: Uber and Airbnb’s incredible growth in 4 charts, VentureBeat. Accessed 01 Feb 2018
  25. 25.
    Haddad, E.: Service-Oriented Architecture: Scaling the Uber Engineering Codebase as We Grow, Uber Engineering. Accessed 01 Nov 2017
  26. 26.
    Programmable Web: Uber API, Programmable Web. Accessed 1 Nov 2017
  27. 27.
    Wintrob, G.: Talking to Uber about the three pillars of its API platform, TechCrunch. Accessed 01 Feb 2018
  28. 28.
    Hein, A., Schreieck, M., Wiesche, M., Krcmar, H.: Multiple-case analysis on governance mechanisms of multi-sided platforms. In: Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik, Ilmenau, Germany, pp. 1613–1624 (2016)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Schreieck, M., Hein, A., Wiesche, M., Krcmar, H.: The challenge of governing digital platform ecosystems. In: Linnhoff-Popien, C., Schneider, R., Zaddach, M. (eds.) Digital Marketplaces Unleashed, pp. 527–538. Springer, Heidelberg (2018). Scholar
  30. 30.
    McIntyre, D.P., Srinivasan, A.: Networks, platforms, and strategy: emerging views and next steps. Strateg. Manag. J. 38, 141–160 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lusch, R.F., Nambisan, S.: Service innovation: a service-dominant logic perspective. MIS Q. 39, 155–175 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technical University of MunichMunichGermany

Personalised recommendations