Friend or Foe?

Distinguishing between complements and substitutes is straightforward—in hindsight. When new technologies and business models first emerge, however, it is often hard to differentiate the two. If you are a banker, is blockchain your friend? A foe? The technology might be a complement if it makes financial transactions faster and more secure. It could be a substitute if it displaces traditional payment services with cryptocurrencies and fundraising through coin offerings.

Consider food delivery services such as China’s Ele.me, Brazil’s iFood, and America’s DoorDash: Are they complements or substitutes for restaurants? They are complements if customers rely on delivery services to discover new restaurants they hope to visit. They ...

Get Better, Simpler Strategy now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.