Student Theses and Projects: Launch of Software Platforms - The Case of Salesforce AppExchange


Thesis (MA/DA) - Reference number 2019-194

Advisor: Martin Engert (fortiss, An-Institut TU München)


Today, software platforms are the dominant model for cooperative software development (Tiwana et al. 2010). Launching and growing these platforms is a huge challenge for the platform provider, which typically face a chicken-egg problem in getting developers and users on board respectively (Reuver et al. 2018; Schirrmacher et al. 2017). Building on an existing base of users or customers and opening up the developer side is one launch strategy for software platforms (Evans 2009). When introducing AppExchange, Salesforce built on its existing user base for their core product, to attract third-party developers and create a vibrant software platform. However, using a micro-strategic lens will help to gain a better understanding of the many strategic moves during their launch and growth phases and helps emerging software platforms to follow established practices in their daily praxis (Johnson et al. 2003; Whittington 2006). Further, this thesis advances research towards a design theory for platform launch (Reuver et al. 2018). Therefore, this thesis will examine the strategic practices applied by Salesforce when launching AppExchange using a single case study (Eisenhardt 1989). The goal of this thesis is to derive a framework and propositions for the launch of software platforms.


  • Conduct a literature review on software platform growth to gain an initial overview
  • Identify data sources to analyze the different strategic moves of Salesforce when introducing and establishing AppExchange. Data sources may cover interviews (with Salesforce or relevant partners/developers) and other, mostly publicly available data
  • Derive relevant practices from the case study and create a framework and propositions for strategic practices in the context of software platforms



  • High degree of autonomy, individual responsibility and attention-to-detail
  • Interest and experience in qualitative research
  • Very good grades and a good command of English language are beneficial


The topic can be adapted according to your interests. The thesis can be written in English or German. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. The thesis is part of a research project developing a digital platform ecosystem with fortiss – An-Institute of TU Munich. Please send your application including our application form, "Notenauszug" from TUMonline, and CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents. Announcement date: 21.08.2019


Eisenhardt, K. M. 1989. “Building Theories from Case Study Research,” The Academy of Management Review (14:4), p. 532.

Evans, D. S. 2009. “How Catalysts Ignite: The Economics of Platform-Based Start-Ups,” in Platforms, Markets and Innovation, A. Gawer (ed.), Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 99–128.

Johnson, G., Melin, L., and Whittington, R. 2003. “Micro Strategy and Strategizing: Towards an Activity-Based View,” Journal of Management Studies (40:1), pp. 3–22.

Reuver, M. de, Sørensen, C., and Basole, R. C. 2018. “The Digital Platform: A Research Agenda,” Journal of Information Technology (33:2), pp. 124–135.

Schirrmacher, N.-B., Ondrus, J., and Kude, T. 2017. “Launch Strategies of Digital Platforms: Platforms With Switching and Non-Switching Users,” in Twenty-Fifth European Conference on Information Systems, Guimarães, Portugal.

Tiwana, A., Konsynski, B., and Bush, A. A. 2010. “Platform evolution: Coevolution of platform architecture, governance, and environmental dynamics,” Information Systems Research (21:4), pp. 675–687.

Whittington, R. 2006. “Completing the Practice Turn in Strategy Research,” Organization Studies (27:5), pp. 613–634.