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Every tech startup is like Uber but for (something)

Disrupt all the things.


Aaron Sankin


Posted on Aug 7, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 7:48 pm CDT

Ah, Silicon Valley. It’s a place where anyone, no matter how humble their original station in life, can come to change the world armed with nothing more than a dream, a laptop, a million dollars in seed money, and a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford.

Silicon Valley is nothing if not a company town for tech and, in company towns, precisely what someone means by ?change the world” has a tendency to be drawn relatively narrowly. In 2014, it may run something along the lines of taking an already existing idea, tweaking it just enough to compete with the existing business models of Facebook or Yahoo, and then hoping one of those established giants buys the company out for a multimillion-dollar payday. And then maybe, just maybe, a former boy band star will play you in the movie version of your company’s tumultuous rise to fame and fortune.

The hottest existing idea is Uber, a company that’s gotten so trendy that even Republicans in Washington are attempting to ride on its coattails. ?Our country was built on the entrepreneurial spirit. Our cities deserve innovative and effective solutions without government getting in the way,” reads the text of an online petition the Republican National Committee recently began circulating on Uber’s behalf. ?That’s what innovative businesses like Uber provide. And that’s why our cities need Uber.”

As a result, the tech industry has seen a flood of new companies promising to be the next Uber. Sure, some of these firms are just aping or very slightly modifying Uber’s transportation-focused business model, but most are taking Uber’s sharing economy concept and applying it to to disrupt a bevy of other industries.

The following is a list of companies that have been billed as ?Uber but for _______.” As it turns out, it’s possible to fill in that blank with pretty much anything.

Like Uber, but for pizza

Company: Push For Pizza

How it works: Allows you to order pizza with a single touch of a button on a smartphone app

Real-world alternative: Summoning all your courage and having a 90-second phone conversation with a complete stranger

Like Uber, but for all foods (not just pizza, but also pizza)

Company: Caviar

How it works: This app lets you order food from any restaurant with takeout, courier delivers it to your door

Real-world alternative: See above

Like Uber, but for airplanes

Company: Blackjet

How it works: Allows you to grab a seat on a private jet without having to own a private jet

Real-world alternative: Sitting in coach, ordering a Bloody Mary, falling asleep

Like Uber, but for dog walking

Company: Swifto

How it works: Dog walking service that lets you track your dog’s route on your smartphone app

Real-world alternative: Hiring a dog walker you trust enough not to have to constantly monitor. Or just walking your own damn dog yourself. (Warning: You may have to touch its poop/get mild exercise.)

Like Uber, but for hair

Company: StyleBee

How it works: Smartphone app that lets you call a stylist to your house, who will then cut your hair

Real-world alternative:

Like Uber, but for lifting heavy objects

Company: Wagon

How it works: Crowdsourcing people with trucks to help you move big stuff

Real-world alternative: A friend with a truck and nothing to do that day, six-pack of craft beer to say thanks/sorry

Like Uber, but for photographers

Company: Picquest

How it works: Smartphone app that shows all the professional photographers nearby and then lets you call them over to take your picture

Real-world alternative: Selfies

Like Uber, but for fixing broken iPhone screens

Company: iCracked

How it works: Use the app to have a technician meet you at whatever location you desire to repair your damaged device

Real-world alternative: Not getting so drunk all the time

Like Uber, but for doctors

Company: Pager

How it works: App lets people consult with doctors and schedule house calls

Real-world alternative: An ambulance

Like Uber, but for drones

Company: AnimalRobo

How it works: App lets you hire a nearby drone pilot for all of your drone piloting needs

Real-world alternative: Bringing a ladder for your wedding photographer to stand on

Like Uber, but for laundry

Company: DRYV

How it works: Dry cleaning pickup and delivery service operated through app

Real-world alternative: Wear a bib when you eat spaghetti to avoid getting marinara sauce on your white shirt

Like Uber, but for pot

Company: Canary

How it works: Smartphone app lets residents of Colorado and Washington order marijuana delivered right to their front doors

Real-world alternative: Summoning all your restraint and not getting too stoned to go outside and buy more pot

Like Uber, but for Mr. Plow

Company: Plowme

How it works: App lets you hire a snowplow for your home from a network of snowplow drivers

Real-world alternative: A shovel

Like Uber, but for Uber

Company: UberPool (it’s actually just a new program by Uber)

How it works: Join forces with other Uber riders to split rides with other people going to the same place

Real-world alternative: The bus.

And so on…

Photo via Larry Lamsa (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Aug 7, 2014, 6:31 am CDT