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How to Compete in Digital Platform Markets: Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage

Proseminar Strategy and Organization in Technology Markets (course held in English)

Dr. Horst Melcher

Due to Covid-19 this course will this semester be held in a digital format only, with all class-discussions, small-group preparations, and office hours online via Zoom.

Please Note: Attendance is obligatory!

Course Overview

Platform Markets are the fastest growing and most turbulent markets in today's economy. Releasing a constant stream of innovative products, taking-up customers at unprecedented speeds, attracting providers of complementary goods to reach critical mass, and fighting standards battles are just some examples of the unique challenges for managers in these industries.

This course is based on the ‘case method’, developed by Harvard Business School (HBS) using real-life case studies of individual companies for educating future managers. We will look in each class session at one of the principal participants in platform markets, e.g. Amazon, Spotify, Uber, and try to identify sources of competitive advantages and understanding their sustainability case-by-case. This is based on individual preparations of each case and small group discussions prior to a full evaluation of potentially successful corporate action plans in the seminar.

You will be able to apply the major concepts introduced in the lecture "Management and Economics of Platforms (MEP)" to the individual cases during this seminar, and thereby experience a range of strategic options and outcomes on how to successfully compete in platform markets.

Course Structure

This course consists of weekly classes where we will discuss a selection of recently published ‘case studies’ along the lines of ‘assignment questions’, which you will both have read and prepared prior to each class individually and in small group sessions. Most cases are written by HBS-faculty, and have to be bought by the students. The seminar offers you an interactive learning experience that is based on analytic preparation and intensive class discussions.

About the Lecturer

Dr. Horst Melcher is a 2015 Fellow of Harvard University’s ‘Advanced Leadership Initiative’. Prior to that, he has worked 25+ years in various management positions in German multinational firms, most recently as president of Deutsche Telekom in Japan.


To apply, please send an e-mail to both Dr. Horst Melcher  and containing a Transcript of Record and CV by 24.10.2020. Your prior attendance of the lecture ‘Management and Economics of Platforms (MEP)’ is recommended, but not required for this course.


This seminar does not qualify for a Bachelor thesis at the ISTO according to the examination regulations (107 kB)

Dates Seminar on Tuesdays, 14:15-15:45h, classes starting November 3rd, 2020
Small Group presentations on Mondays, 16:00-17:30h or 17:30-19:00h, starting November 9th, 2020
Zoom-Link TBA
Deadlines Application until October 24th, 2020
Credits 6 ECTS
Examination 50% of the final grade is based on a 60 minutes online take-home exam on February 9th, 2021 at 14:15h; 50% is based on an individual presentation

Further Information

Dr. Horst Melcher