Uber is a “private car for hire” service which uses a mobile app to handle the whole engagement and payment transaction including rating both drivers and riders. It has the taxi industry trying to set up roadblocks. AirBnB matches up people who want to rent out their apartments (trailers, rooms, etc.) with people looking for a place to stay for a night and has the hotel industry running for cover.
You know something is up when company names morph into shorthand for a business model. A few months back I saw this post titled The Uberfication of Everything. Then more recently Product Hunt published two lists – Uber for X and AirBnB for X listing start-ups imitating these business models. So now we have Uber-style services for everything from snow plowing and lawn mowing to hopping a ride on a single engine plane. There are AirBnB-style services for everything from boats to toilets – yes, there is an AirPnP.
Both of these business models start by leveraging some form of spare capacity (for example, down time of limo drivers, spare rooms, co-pilot seats in tiny planes) and then create a more direct connection between the seller (owner) and the buyer, what economists like to call disintermediation.
They enable the whole model with a smartphone app or website for seamless and easy booking and payment combined with a social rating system to give participants information to evaluate each other’s “performance.” This is disrupting some entrenched business models.
It is no surprise then that the taxi industry and its regulatory allies have accelerated their efforts to shut down Uber wherever they can. AirBnB has now apparently surpassed the hotel industry in rooms rented and the hotel lobby is busy trying to fight a rear-guard action. Vested interests who are being disintermediated are mobilizing their legal challenges in cities and countries across the globe.
Ultimately however, consumers will vote with their feet and their smartphones and make their own assessments of the relative risks, costs, and benefits of these new services. Governments will adapt their regulations. Many people now, in my city at least, seem happy to pay a premium for what they see as a better alternative to a taxi or to book their overnight stay in a more homey space than a hotel room. Rapid expansion of these business model innovations is “driving” the point “home.”
I have to admit that when I saw a blog post about the Monkey Parking app which lets you pay another parker $5 to wait and give you a public parking spot as they leave it, I thought that might be a step too far. Of course, if ParkMobile would simply add a map to its pay-by-smartphone parking app that would tell me where an empty parking space is, I might pay a premium for that. What do you think will be the next market to be uberfied or airBnB’d? Who’s next?