PLATFORMS & Digital Business Models

Courses offered by Prof. Kevin Boudreau

Overview and Motivation for Studying Platform Business Models

The growing digitization of the economy has led many of today’s leading enterprises--including both the largest global superstar firms and most exciting entrepreneurial start-up ventures--to be born digital and organized as platforms. Trends to digitization have also led to an urgency for established businesses across all sectors to learn how to meaningfully adopt digital and platform-based business practices. While these trends have been in motion for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these trends.

To understand how platform-based business models work and their impact on the world (and you, personally), this course is organized around a business strategy question: How to optimally design a platform business model? To answer this question, this course draws together insights across academic research and industry practice on platforms, along with longstanding lessons of business strategy and business model design.

By placing the strategic questions, above, are the heart of the course, the course is intended to teach you several things:

Further, by understanding these economic and strategic issues, you will gain insights on... 

Prerequisites: You are Most Welcome to Join

This course is an "advanced introduction." It is designed to be wholly accessible to capable and well-prepared students from a range of intellectual backgrounds. 

Take this course if ...

Learning Process

The learning approach to the class is based on learning cycles that will tend to be one-week long.

Each week, we will focus on a particular aspect of our question, "How to design a platform business model?". Over the weeks, these will accumulate into a coherent framework-of-frameworks.

The ultimate goal within a given week is to have students internalize concepts, theory, frameworks and tools--and to be able to apply them. These concepts and tools are distilled and integrated from the existing body of research and practice. It is also important that you understand how those concepts relate to and build upon ideas from previous weeks.

To internalize these ideas, the bulk of in-class interactions will involve collaboratively working through real-world problems, through the eyes of platform executives and strategists. These case study discussions will offer an "in the cockpit" appreciation of business model economics and tradeoffs--and illustrate key concepts--by having you work through difficult decisions. Case studies will cover a wide range of industries, cultural and country contexts. It is important that you are well-prepared for case study discussions; and this is an excellent opportunity to learn to productively contribute to the discussion. You will also be assigned readings to help internalize lessons.


There is no suitable textbook that currently covers this material. Instead the professor will provide a combination of readings, and concepts and tools summarized within slides and teaching notes.

Sample Topics

A range of different industries will be covered...

Course Professor

Dr. Kevin Boudreau has worked and researched platforms, digital and data-intensive industries for decades. He is primarily affiliated with the D'Amore McKim School of Business, but also holds courtesy appointments at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (Dept. Economics), and the Khoury School of Computer Science. 

Prior to joining Northeastern, Dr. Boudreau taught courses related to Business Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School, London Business School, and HEC-Paris. He hold degrees from MIT (PhD), the University of Toronto (MA), and the University of Waterloo (B.Eng.). His research has been generously supported by Google, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Microsoft, the Paris Chamber of Commerce, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Kauffman Foundation, G.E., and the Management Lab. 

Dr. Boudreau has held secondary academic appointments as the Chief Economist of the NASA Tournament Lab, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science and Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard University. Prior to entering academia, he was responsible for business leadership, strategy consulting and engineering responsibilities at The Economist, Qualcomm, Braxton Associates (Deloitte Strategy Consulting), Nortel Networks, the Canadian Space Agency. He has founded and advise a number of startups related to building digital platforms, networking, open innovation, crowdsourcing, data science and machine learning.


This is a newly-designed course, but here are several early testimonials.  I will continue to work to improve the course.

The course is very different from what I've taken before. It taught me a lot that I was previously unaware about and I also gained ample knowledge about platforms that I didn't know existed. The discussions were really helpful in learning about other people's perspectives which made the learning more enriching.

The instructor build a sense of community online which was impressive

The instructor is very enthusiastic and knowledgable. I enjoyed the class tremendously

It's clear the professor cares and thinks deeply about the subject. It's also clear he's not just teaching this class for requirements but genuinely interested in sharing his knowledge and listening to others on the the topic. It made for a much more free-flowing and thought provoking class.

Very interesting topic, and Prof. Boudreau posed questions to the class that really helped us to learn.

The professor was able to present the information in the course in a very clear and intriguing manner.

Professor Boudreau was an absolute pleasure to have as a professor. Welcoming, kind, thoughtful, and incredibly well-versed with the material, every student is lucky to learn from him.

This was my most interesting course this semester. The instructor was super passionate and knowledgeable.

Prof. Boudreau is an amazing speaker and the lectures were really interesting,

The professor was very knowledgable and brought a lot of experience to the field. He taught extremely well and made sure everyone felt involved in the class. Amazing class!

He really cares about his students.

The textbook and "teaching notes" the professor wrote where very helpful!

Class discussion was engaging even when we moved to zoom.

The lectures we had in this class were some of the most powerful I've had throughout college

One of the most useful and relevant courses I have ever taken. Super applicable to business and allows you to view the world around you differently.

Professor Boudreau is great and cares about his students... I would highly recommend this class to anyone.

Kevin is a stellar teacher and engages the class is super meaningful discussion. He is also incredibly well versed in the subject yet communicates his knowledge well. He shows far more than he tells, and he tells a lot.

Kevin were able to build a constructive way of thinking by connecting different perspectives and analyzing data.

I think this is one of the most interesting courses I have taken as part of the MBA program. Something I have never studied, but now I feel that I have the tools, understanding, and frameworks to look at platform businesses confidently and effectively.

Kevin was very welcoming, making the class comfortable to argue and show the points of view during class. This made me learn a lot with not only Kevin but everyone in class. I believe that because there was a small group, it also helped.

Kevin Boudreau is a very effective instructor. He provides a great balance of conceptual/lecture material to accompany the cases and is sure to include the class in discussions. He pushes students to think and apply course material in creative ways, and doesn't "hand-hold" through the learning process. I would highly recommend the professor and the course to any student.

Professor Boudreau is passionate about the course and engages the students with his energy and knowledge.

Kevin was the best professor I had, he was able to capture the class attention throughout the entire lecture. I could see that he is an updated professor, so he is all the time studying and bringing fresh information to class. He provided helpful readings and case studies, was very clear in his words and teaching method.

There was no textbook for the class but the professor used case studies and slides which were important to learn about new concepts and apply those concepts and theories through discussions. I recommend the professor continue using this approach because it is an effective and engaging way of teaching platform models.

The instructor was very knowledgable about the subject and effectively communicated new theories. He also made the class very engaging by encouraging discussions by asking questions and using case studies to explain platforms and their mechanisms. I really enjoyed the class because I learnt something new and was able to voice my perspectives while gaining new insights from other students.

Great professor, highly recommend! Learned a lot as a non business major, favorite class this semester

Classes are always interesting and intellectually challenging. Professor Boudreau will always help students walk through question if they are unable to answer. The interactive environment Professor Boudreau cultivated was the ideal medium to maximise learning in this course.