The Business Models Investors Prefer

22 Jul 2011 Sandeep Mehta

MIT Sloan Management Review has an interesting breakdown of business models in the article The Business Models Investors Prefer:

  • Creators, which sell ownership of products they have created by transforming or assembling raw materials or components. Ford, 3M and Intel are examples of this type of company;
  • Distributors such as Wal-Mart or’s retail business, which sell ownership of products they bought but did not substantially change, except by transporting, repackaging or marketing;
  • Landlords, which sell only the right to use assets for a specified period of time; Marriott, Hertz, Accenture and Citigroup are examples of the landlord model. We included in this category companies that employ licenses or subscriptions to sell limited rights to use their intellectual property (IP) assets — companies such as Microsoft and The New York Times;
  • Brokers, which receive a fee for matching buyers and sellers without ever taking ownership or custody of the product; examples include Charles Schwab, eBay and realtors.

There are four types of assets as well:

  • Financial assets, which include cash as well as securities like stocks, bonds and insurance policies that give their owners rights to potential future cash flows;
  • Physical assets, which include durable items such as computers, as well as nondurable items such as food;
  • Intangible assets, which include intellectual property such as patents and copyrights, as well as other intangible assets like knowledge, goodwill and brand value;
  • Human assets, which include people’s time and effort. People of course cannot be legally bought and sold, but their time and knowledge can be “rented out” for a fee

The overall conclusion (in my opinion less important and somewhat questionable) is:

“In research we conducted at the MIT Sloan School of Management, we found that the stock market consistently values certain types of business models more highly than others. Specifically, we found that in recent years, investors have favored business models focusing on licensing intellectual property (such as Walt Disney’s business model) and a certain kind of highly innovative manufacturing (such as Apple’s).”

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