Blockchain Openness: Exploring Platform Strategy and Openness for Blockchain Platforms through the Case of TradeLens

Asger Steen Boelsmand & Niclas André de Voss

Student thesis: Master thesis


Limited knowledge exists on the strategic impact of the relatively novel technology of blockchain, motivating the investigation’s exploration of platform openness in the context of blockchain platforms, with the objective of answering the research question: how can incumbents establishing industry-wide platforms based on blockchain balance openness within their strategy to overcome adoption challenges? Deriving a framework from the existing body of research within the field of platform strategy and openness, the investigation chose a case study of TradeLens to answer the research question and contribute with valuable insights for academia and practice. With the objective of solving the industry's massive inefficiencies, TradeLens is the first industry-wide platform initiative underpinned by blockchain. The platform's exclusive ownership through Maersk and IBM led to significant initial adoption difficulties addressed by the platform's strategy in the context of platform openness. The investigation of TradeLens produces several interesting findings. Overall blockchain was identified as a critical element for establishing industry-wide platforms in industry contexts characterized by competition and lack of trust, as the technology was found to inherently increase openness. Furthermore, the case study of TradeLens provided numerous strategic options for increasing platform openness in order to achieve industry adoption and sustain appropriability. These measures included the implementation of profit-sharing-models, an advisory board, open standards-based APIs, liberty of service utilization, free onboarding of one user side, a client partner model, a collaborative approach towards the industry as well as the pursuit of standardization and interoperability. Furthermore, strategic plans for future facilitation of co-creation of third-party content through platform openness for complementors was identified as acritical element to balance openness when employing a more closed ownership structure. Despite providing valuable findings with implications for theory and practice, the inductive nature of this single case study calls for future research on the topic of blockchain and platform strategy.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages110
SupervisorsValentina Tartari