MIT Sloan MIT Process Handbook

Business Models
In the MIT eBusiness Process Repository, we organize our case examples by Business Model. We define a business model as what a company does and how they make money from doing itThe breadth of models can be explored by looking at two dimensions: what rights are being sold and what asset is involved.

We consider three basic types of rights: ownership, use and matching:

·        Ownership means that the business sells ongoing rights to an asset. This asset may have been created by the business from raw materials or bought and sold without change. The amount of transformation of the asset differentiates Creators from Distributors.

·        Use means the business retains ongoing rights to an asset but sells the right to use the asset for a limited time.

·        Matching means matching buyers and sellers without the business ever taking ownership of the asset.

We consider four types of assets for which a company sells the rights: physical, financial, intellectual and human.

      • Physical assets include various products that can be sold including goods, various forms of energy, food, etc. Physical assets may be reusable or used once and consumed (such as food or energy.
      • Financial assets are monetary in nature and need not physically change hands, as long as accounting for ownership occurs.
      • Intellectual assets include intellectual property, goodwill, brand image, and human attention.
      • Human assets include people’s time and effort. Technically human resources are not ‘assets’ in an accounting sense and cannot be bought and sold. However, their time can be ‘rented’ out for a fee.

The table below shows a matrix of what rights are being sold by what asset is being sold. This typology shows 16 possible models that we call Business Model Archetypes (BMA). While all of the models are logically possible, some are not as common as others and at least two (Human Trader and Human Creator) are currently illegal or there are serious ethical issues.
 Clicking on the type of right will bring you to the entry in the process handbook. The bolded models have some examples in the handbook.

What is being sold?

Asset Type





Asset Right

Ownership–Significant Transformation (Creator)




Human Creator

Ownership–Limited Transformation


Financial Trader

Wholesaler/ Retailer

IP Trader

Human Distributor



Financial Landlord

Physical Landlord

Intellectual Landlord




Financial Broker

Physical Broker

IP Broker

HR Broker

We have a working paper that describes our Business Model work in more depth.

Our research on Business Models was partially funded by the National Science Foundation under grant number IIS-0085725.





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