U.S. tech titans increasingly hire PhD economists to help solve business problems.

Monica McNeil

2019-03-19 12:35:00 Tue ET

U.S. tech titans increasingly hire PhD economists to help solve business problems. These key tech titans include Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Netflix, and Twitter (FAMGANT). Most PhD economists exhibit at least 2 critical skills that can contribute to effective business solutions. First, many economists implement effective empirical methods and quantitative tools to ferret out *causal relations* in business data. Second, PhD economists can understand the useful design of both *effective incentives and market mechanisms* for better business optimization. In practice, these PhD economists help demystify many empirical puzzles in the tech sector. For instance, some economists empirically find that Uber Express Pool may inadvertently draw in active users from some other Uber products without growing the full Uber user base. Also, several other economists show that eBay tends to syphon off people who would have come through organic search when the online auction website advertises on Google. Moreover, some recent economic research demonstrates that many African-American Airbnb users experience rampant racial discrimination.

If tech platforms involve matching users or businesses, market design economists can likely help guide these key business decisions. Modern examples of disruptive platform design include Amazon, Airbnb, Tinder, TripAdvisor, and so forth. If scale economies are critical for the business, several major mergers, acquisitions, and exclusive deals may dramatically alter the strategic industry structure and market environment. For instance, Apple and Alphabet are the dominant duo in the iOS-Android market for mobile devices; Microsoft remains a primary software market player with its Office Suite and Windows operating system; Intel and Qualcomm specialize and dominate in the tech-savvy market for microchips; Google acquires 90% of U.S. online search traffic; Facebook extracts healthy profits in social media advertisements; and Netflix retains competitive moats and niches in the lucrative business of high-speed original video content distribution.

If tech companies need to analyze large-scale user data to make better business decisions, econometricians apply logistic regressions, panel estimation methods, and time-series models to derive informative business insights into user behaviors, product reviews, and customer interests and preferences. Smart data analyzers include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, PayPal, and IBM etc. In contrast to doctors, engineers, and lawyers who may focus on specific mechanical details and techniques, most economists focus on the bigger picture when they implement empirical methods to solve practical business problems. Overall, most economists can see both the trees and the forest in important business decisions when push comes to shove.

 


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