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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

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The Uberization of Everything

Uber and InnovationThe taxi industry is shaking in its boots, worried about the impact of Uber. The reality is, every industry should be concerned.

For those of you luddites who have not yet heard of Uber, it is a technology platform that allows you to request a ride from an individual who will then pick you up in his or her personal car. It is like a taxi, only better.

I use Uber all of the time. The cost is half the price of a taxi. The cars are in better condition than the typical yellow cab. The drivers are actually friendly. I can rate the drivers (and see their rating) so the duds get weeded out. And I can see exactly when the car will pick me up on my iPhone app.

Companies similar to Uber now offer the ability to connect buyers with sellers in different industries. For example, Airbnb enables you to rent someone’s house or room.

As awesome as Uber is today, it today pales in comparison to what it (and others) will do in the future.

Need a plumber? In the future I bet you’ll be able to request a handyman through one of these apps. Want the snow on your driveway plowed? Want a baby sitter? Need a date for tonight’s performance of Swan Lake? These technologies have the potential to do matchmaking for those in the future.

It’s like Craigslist on steroids. Or for everything. Or a real-time eLance.

Imagine that your receptionist calls in sick. You are stuck and need someone to answer the phones for the day. Instead of calling a temp agency, you could log on to the app and request someone who is nearby and can be there in 30 minutes. You might even be able to order a pizza on the app and have it delivered in 30 minutes – while seeing the driver’s GPS positioning on the app so you know exactly when it will arrive.

The possibilities are endless.

What’s interesting is that Uber does not own cars or have taxi licenses. Airbnb does not own hotels or buildings. They are technology companies that allow individuals with spare capacity to offer it to the world.  The barriers to entry are relatively low. The main hurdles have been political in nature.

In the future, nearly every industry could be impacted by these types of technology platforms. Rental cars. Boats. Equipment. Labor. Intelligence. Innovation. All could be bought from someone else “on demand.”

Google recently implied that it will be offering its own Uber-like service. I’m sure they will take the concept in a whole new direction with the intention of disrupting every industry possible.

Innovation is so much more than staying one-step ahead of today’s competition. It also requires you to predict who will become tomorrow’s competition. And in same cases, your worst nightmare might be a technology company. Be uber-worried.