Interview with ‘dr. Businessmodel’: Alexander Osterwalder


The term businessmodel became popular only in the late nineties. Today choosing the right businessmodel is the key to your succes. During the conference ‘Traditional and new media: businessmodels of the 21th century’ you can learn about businesmodelling in the media-industry and even have a look at your own businessmodel. One of the keynote speakers is ‘Dr. Businessmodel’, Alexander Osterwalder. Frankwatching had the chance to talk to him and look forward to the conference.

Alexander Osterwalder developed a systematic methodology to achieve business model innovation. The approach, which he developed at the University of Lausanne, allows executives to describe and assess their business model and achieve business model innovation. Besides his speaking engagements, Dr. Osterwalder focuses on executive training in the domain of business model development and innovation and works as a partner at Geneva-based consulting boutique Arvetica in Switzerland. He has worked for various industries, including media, telecom and pharma. His current focus is on the financial service industry, and in particular on private banking and wealth management.

What’s your connection with media at the moment, cause your current focus is on the financial service industry?

“The last six to seven years I looked at business models across various industries, especially focusing on innovation. Just the last few years I’m applying this to the private bankingsector.

My special interest in media is that a lot of media are under pressure, like print. So you see new models popping up. A nice example is the music industry. It’s a pool of innovative business models. Traditional major companies complain that it is expensive to discover new talent, but a lot of start-ups in the music industry are quite succesfull.”

Do you think the current developments in the media-industry are a revolution or an evolution?

“I think that’s a rather academic discussion. What counts is that you achieve results. Bottomline you have to serve the need of your customers. If your approach is too innovative for your customers, it will have it’s affect on the results and you have to adjust. So it’s really about finding the businessmodell that fits best to your market.”

What makes your approach so unique and succesfull?

“Businessmodels as a topic is hot. But what is still missing today are approaches and tools to look at businessmodels. I developed a structure which makes it possible tot evaluate and compare your businessmodel and find out about the strengths and weaknesses. It exists of nine building blocks. It’s a holistic model, all the pieces have to fit together. This holistic view is often missing. For example: it’s not enough for a startup to develop a new technique.”

Business model Alexander Osterwalder

The businessmodel exists of nine elements, but I think most managers focus too much on the revenue streams. What’s your opinion about that?

“It’s difficult to generalize. Maybe it happens in startups. But in large companies the focus of the manager depends on the part of the organization he represents. In that case silo-thinking is a bigger problem.”

What’s the biggest challenge for managers in the media-industry for the next 10 years?

“For large companies I see three major challenges. The first one is to think outside the traditional boundaries of their industry. For example: it’s hard to determine if Apple is in the industry of music, software or hardware. In fact, they do it all together. Everything will be more crossmedia and fuzzy.
The second challenge is to innovate and really implement it. And that’s all about change management and not an easy thing to achieve within a large company. A third major issue is how to respond to startups. For example: how did the telecom-industry react on Skype?

I see other challenges for startups. The first one is to carve out their niche. The second one is also about implementing skills. You can have a lot of good ideas, but you need a holistic view on the businessmodel and be able to implement your idea.

What are you looking forward to at the coming conference?

“I hope to see an interesting mix of people from traditional media and startups. And I’m very curious about how they exchange their ideas. And during the workshop I hope to see people coming up with new ideas.”

brainstorm businessmodel - foto van Alexander Osterwalder

You can find more information about the conference on the website ‘I love businessmodels’ (see also ‘event in the spotlight: mediacongres 2008′ on Frankwatching). If you want to read more about the work of Alex Osterwalder you can check out his weblog ‘Business Model Design and Innovation’. He is also currently writing a book on ‘business model innovation’ together with Professor Yves Pigneur from the University of Lausanne. The book itself will have an innovative business model – it will go far outside the traditional publishing model. The book will be produced together with Amsterdam-based ULURU.

Let op: Dit congres is verplaatst naar het derde kwartaal van 2008!