Oldie but goodie: managing an ecosystem is messy; lessons from the Kenyan wild

From last year, but still a great read with lessons for platform managers/owners everywhere, drawing on lessons from the Kenyan government and their relationship with the Maasai tribes.

The policy: When a lion kills a cow, the Maasai don’t retaliate. Instead, they report and document the attack and the government replaces the cow. Additionally, the government shares tourism revenue with the Maasai by finding them jobs as drivers and tour guides, further incentivizing them. Maasai lion killings have declined, and tourists visit Kenya in droves for its beautiful lions.

The insight of Kenya reveals the solution for eBay. You encourage free shipping the same way you save lions: By understanding incentives.

Sellers have two main goals on eBay. First, they want more sales and higher sales velocity — all merchants want to sell more, and sell more frequently. Second, they want better margins. Merchants can either sell their goods for higher prices, or their fees for selling on eBay needed to be lower. The former was not going to work, because buyers don’t want higher prices, so we worked on accomplishing the latter and finding a way for the platform to change.

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