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Every tech startup is like Uber but for (something)
Disrupt all the things.
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.
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
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
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
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.)
How it works: Smartphone app that lets you call a stylist to your house, who will then cut your hair
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
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
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
How it works: App lets people consult with doctors and schedule house calls
Real-world alternative: An ambulance
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
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
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
How it works: App lets you hire a snowplow for your home from a network of snowplow drivers
Real-world alternative: A shovel
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…
Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.