Kevin Boudreau, Northeastern DMSB + NBER

Curriculum Vitae | Google Scholar | SSRN | @kevinjboudreau | k e v i n a t n o r t h e a s t e r n e d u

Dr. Boudreau is an associate professor at Northeastern University and National Bureau of Economic Research. He carries out large-scale empirical studies and field experiments to better understand how to design massively-scaleable innovation and entrepreneurship systems. His research has been supported by Microsoft, Google, the Paris Chamber of Commerce, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Kauffman Foundation. He holds degrees from MIT, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo. He has previously taught at HEC-Paris, HBS, and LBS.

Digital Platforms, Innovation & Strategy

UPCOMING: Field Experiments in Platform Take-off, Freemium Digital Competition, Field Experiments in Multi-Disciplinary Platform-Based Problem-Solving

NEW : Kaushik, N., K. Boudreau (2018). "Gender-Based Preferences for “Tech” Work? Field Experimental Evidence from an Internet-of-Things Platform" Unpublished Manuscript.

NEW : Miric, M., K. Boudreau, L. Jeppesen (2018). "Protecting their digital assets: The use of formal & informal appropriability strategies by app developers". Research Policy

A large proportion of app developers actively use formal mechanisms (patents, copyright, etc.) and informal mechnisms (rapid innovation, secrecy, etc.) to attempt to protect their intellectual property.

NEW : Boudreau, K. (2018) "“Crowds” of Amateurs & Professional Entrepreneurs in Marketplaces". NBER Working Paper No. 24512.

The combination of low costs and non-pecuniary motivations on digital platforms leads the 'bottom to fall out' of markets to large numbers of amateurs. Amateurs different in quality, motivations, and persistence in relation to traditional professional enterprises.

Boudreau, K. (2017) "Platform Boundary Choices & Governance: Opening-Up While Still Coordinating and Orchestrating". Advances in Strategic Management on “Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Platforms.” eds. Furman, Gawer, Silverman, Stern.

Wide platform boundaries not only affect internal coordination, but the ability for platforms to project power and orchestrate the wider surrounding ecosystem.

Boudreau, K., L. Jeppesen, T. Reichstein, F. Rullani. (2017) "Entrepreneurial Crowdfunding". Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper 16-038.

Crowdfunders response to empathy, reciprocity, and signaling motivations.

Boudreau, K., K. Lakhani, M. Menietti. (2016) "Performance Responses To Competition Across Skill-Levels In Rank Order Tournaments: Field Evidence and Implications For Tournament Design." RAND Journal of Economics.

Tight competition among close competitors in a rank-order tournament stimulates higher effort.

Boudreau, K., L. Jeppesen (2015) "Unpaid Platform Complementors and the Network Effect Mirage." Strategic Management Journal.

We estimate a model of users influence compelementors and vice versa on game engine platforms where no one gets paid and motivations are non-pecuniary. The non-pecuniary motivations (esp. signaling) contribute to two-sided "indirect" network effects, but these are outweighed by crowding (for attention).

Boudreau, K. (2013) "Does Opening a Platform Stimulate Innovation? The Effect on Systemic and Modular Innovations." MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4611-06.

Granting access to multiple hardware developers around mobile OS's stimulated proliferation of complements and technical features of those complements -- and had ambivalent effects on innovation on the OS platform.

Boudreau, K. (2012) "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom? An Early Look at Large Numbers of Software Apps Developers and Patterns of Innovation." Organization Science.

Early app platforms (pre-iphone) allowed app developers to charge much higher prices than today (on the order of $10 or more) and pecuniary motivations were important. In this period, network effects were off-set by competitive crowding among developers (for profits) in areas with many similar developers. I also find evidence consistent with high heterogeneity and focus on developers, and little evidence that marginal entrants contributed much value in this context.

Boudreau, K., N. Lacetera and K. Lakhani (2011) "Incentives and Problem Uncertainty in Innovation Contests: An Empirical Analysis." Management Science.

In highly uncertain problems, throwing greater numbers of solvers at the problem can be beneficial, even when adding developers induces some measure of lower incentives from crowding. This is not so for less uncertai problems, where adding greater numbers of solvers diminishes output.

Boudreau, K., K. Lakhani. (2011) "The Confederacy of Heterogeneous Software Organizations and Heterogeneous Developers: Field Experimental Evidence on Sorting and Worker Effort." J. Lerner and S. Stern (eds.), The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity, 50th Anniversary Volume. National Bureau of Economic Research.

In an experimentally controlled set-up, when you allow developers the ability to select into their preferred work mode -- either competitive or cooperative -- they double their output relative to a control group who is simply assigned to one of those work regimes.

Boudreau, K. (2010) "Open Platform Strategies and Innovation: Granting Access vs. Devolving Control." Management Science. Management Science.

This paper distinguishes effects of different approaches to opening a platform. Innovation scholars have previously emphasized the importance of granting access to outside complementors. Economists have previously emphasized the importance of giving up control over the platform, itself.
Consistent with the organization of many/most of today's leading platform, I find there to be little benefit to give up control over the platform, itself; but striking immediate effects of regulating the degree of access to complementors.

Boudreau, K., A. Hagiu. (2009) "Platforms Rules: Multi-sided Platforms as Regulators." A. Gawer, ed., Platforms, Markets and Innovation. Edward Elgar, London.

Platforms are, in a sense, "regulators" over the surrounding subeconomy. They set rules, channel information, implement technical rules, take discretion on investments in privacy, provide tools and essentially define the structural features of a market place that shape the level of competition. They also set key prices. Platforms are private regulators with arguably more control, better information, and higher incentives and resources than traditional regulators (i.e., governments and central authorities.)

Science & Universities as Knowledge Platforms

UPCOMING: Field Experiments in Multi-Disciplinary Scientific Research

NEW : Boudreau, K., M. Marx. (2019). "The Transition from Higher Education to Professional Work: Field Experimental Evidence From Engineering Majors" Working Paper.

Lakhani, K., K. Boudreau, E. Guinan (2018) "Randomized Insights: Field Experiments in Understanding Knowledge Production in the Sciences." Science.

Boudreau, K., T. Brady, I. Ganguli, P. Gaule, E. Guinan, T. Hollenberg, K. Lakhani. (2017) "A Field Experiment on Search Costs and the Formation of Scientific Collaborations". Review of Economics and Statistics.

Boudreau, K., E. Guinan, K. Lakhani, et al. (2016) "Looking Across and Looking Beyond the Knowledge Frontier: Intellectual Distance, Novelty and Resource Allocation in Science". Management Science.

Boudreau, K., and K. Lakhani (2015) "Innovation Experiments: Researching Technical Advance, Knowledge Production and the Design of Supporting Institutions." In Innovation Policy and the Economy National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), volume 16, edited by Josh Lerner and Scott Stern. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Boudreau, K., K. Lakhani (2014) "'Open' Disclosure of Innovations, Incentives and Follow-on Reuse: Theory on Processes of Cumulative Innovation and a Field Experiment in Computational Biology." Research Policy.

Lakhani, K., K. Boudreau, C. Baldwin, A. MacCormack, E. Guinan, et al. (2013) "Prize-based contests can provide solutions to computational biology problems." Nature Biotechnology.

Boudreau, K., A. Hagiu. (2009) "Platforms Rules: Multi-sided Platforms as Regulators." A. Gawer, ed. Platforms, Markets and Innovation. Edward Elgar, London.

Translation to Practitioners


UPCOMING: Notes on Designing your Company Vol 2: A New Generation of Organizing & Competing

Boudreau, K. (2017). “A Short Guide to Strategy for Entrepreneurs”. HBR.org.

Boudreau, K. (2016). "Notes on Designing Your Company Vol 1" Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 16-131

Guinan, E., K. Boudreau, K. Lakhani. (2013). "Experiments in Open Innovation at the Harvard Medical School." MIT Sloan Management Review. 54(3): 45-52.

Boudreau, K., K. Lakhani. (2013). "Using the Crowd as an Innovation Partner." Harvard Business Review. 91(4): 60-69.

Boudreau, K., K. Lakhani. (2009). "How to Manage Outside Innovation: Competitive Markets or Collaborative Communities?" MIT Sloan Management Review.



Kevin Boudreau, Northeastern DMSB + NBER

I am an associate professor at Northeastern University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

As a researcher, I am interested in how platforms can organize and govern large numbers of surrounding actors--whether in the format of marketplaces, crowdsourcing contests, open innovation, communities, sharing-economy platforms, social networks, or any other format. Flexible digital and information technologies have opened up a world of new design possibilities even beyond just these formats.

I attempt to understand how precise platform design choices (technology and technical rules, contracts, incentives, etc.) shape behavior at the micro-level to then infer how macroscopic performance (e.g., innovation, profitability, welfare) are shaped.

Much of the work involves field experiments and empirical analyses carried out in close collaboration with business, technology, and public institutions.

I received my Ph.D. at MIT (Behavioral and Policy Sciences), M.A. at the University of Toronto (Economics), and B.A.Sc. at the University of Waterloo (Engineering). Prior to pursuing a career in academic research, I worked in strategy consulting, M&A, tech start-ups and growth firms, and carried and engineering experiments and statistical control analysis in microchip production.