Associate Professor Scott Duke Kominers
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
- The Structure and Purposes of Markets: Markets create value by enabling parties to execute mutually beneficial transactions - exchanging goods, say, or sharing ideas. They are everywhere that transacting parties face incentives - from classic contexts like financial or product markets to dating, recruiting, and the sharing economy.Some markets are completely unstructured, but most are subject to at least some rules that shape participation. In this course, we will focus in particular on markets that are organized through marketplaces that combine rules for participation with infrastructure to facilitate interactions and transactions.
- Common Sources of Market Failure: In many markets, institutional frictions combine with incentives to produce suboptimal outcomes - socially wasteful transactions occur, or productive ones do not. When such market failures occur, entrepreneurial opportunities arise: reshaping the market to improve efficiency creates value that can be captured(!).To understand how to fix markets, however, we must first understand how and why market failures occur. The course will classify different types of market failures, and highlight entrepreneurial responses to each.
- Strategies for Launching and Managing Marketplaces: When launching a marketplace or other market intervention, it is essential to mobilize a critical mass of market participants so that there is enough liquidity for valuable transactions to occur. Once running, a marketplace must maintain balance between its supply and demand sides, or else participants may leave to transact elsewhere. Yet at the same time, marketplaces must avoid crowding that makes it hard for participants to find high-value transaction partners.The course will provide strategies for promoting participation and trust in marketplaces, especially early on. Then, we will learn techniques for growing marketplaces, and combating the problems that marketplaces face at scale, such as congestion, “unraveling” (e.g., when recruiters pressure candidates with early and exploding offers), and the risk of disintermediation.
- Types of Marketplace Mechanisms: Markets work in many different ways. Some compel participants to seek out their own transaction partners; others use centralized transaction discovery and execution systems like auctions and recommendation algorithms. The mechanisms that a marketplace uses to identify and process transactions can be the difference between success and failure.Choosing among marketplace mechanisms requires careful attention to market participants’ needs and transaction attributes. The course will provide guidelines for adopting mechanisms best suited for different market contexts.