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The way I started thinking about middlemen initially was this very simple definition: the person who connects buyers and sellers in a marketplace. In my reporting I actually came across a more expansive and smarter definition. This came from a VC in the valley named Mike Maples. And he says “a middleman in a network is that node in a network that connects other nodes to increase the value of the network.” That’s looking at it from a more positive view and it’s obviously a network view. It’s really looking at the value of the person who is making those connections because not all middlemen can create value or can increase the value of the network. Even if they do they don’t necessarily help both parties enough to justify their cost. I really like that positive angle. Also, it’s so expansive that it goes beyond buyers and sellers. If I know somebody who I think you should meet, I can make that introduction. I’m a middleman who has improved the value of my network by making both people hopefully better off. – Marina Krakovsky
Marina Krakovsky is a social science and business journalist with a degree from Stanford University, and author of The Middlemen Economy