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Multi-sided markets have been around for a long time but relatively recently economists figured out that they are interesting in their own right. Interdependent groups of customers provide each other with network effects. A credit card will only work if there are both cardholders willing to use it to purchase things and merchants willing to accept payment using the card. Get the balance wrong or decide who will bear the brunt of paying will crash and burn your business.

Citizen Intelligence is a multi-sided market. Citizens consume reports on one side. IT development teams make the reports on another side. A third side is represented by content creation operations like think tanks who see an outlet for their memes. Whether or not there is a fourth side to the market is a major question mark. This would be the political class looking for analytics insight into the citizenry.

There is risk in both including this fourth side and also in excluding it. Excluding the politicians creates an itch in a category of people that have an interest and large sums of money that come in via taxation. Including the politicians might alienate the very citizens that Citizen intelligence is named for and who are at the heart of the effort.

Fortunately, sequencing the markets is pretty cut and dried and it makes no sense to put the politicians anywhere but last. The two sides of the multi-sided market that go first are the IT teams that will build the product (and get paid) and the citizens that will consume the product (and pay). Think tanks go third with their large libraries of legacy reports and their in-house IT departments that might self-publish without the need to bid out the work.

By the point where even thinking about politicians starts making sense, Citizen Intelligence will have stable revenue and know a great deal about its customers, enough to answer the question that is currently too expensive to research. Will including the politicical class as a separate market for the platform upset the core users that were the point of undertaking the entire effort in the first place?

Update: An interesting examination of multi-sided markets from Harvard Business School that is giving me a good deal more to chew on.

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