Alberto Benbunan
May 5, 2015 · 5 min read

At Mobile Dreams Factory, we have some principles of user behavior that feed future trends, such as one that regards the scarcity of time, in which we say that, in the future, we will have less time, and that along with the cost reduction of computing, artificial intelligence, connected cars and others, we will increasingly automate our lives and outsource many of the tedious formalities to machines.

To reach this fully automated life, we have to check if the market is willing or prepared to outsource its life. Because of this, from mid 2011 onwards, a series of platforms appeared wanting to help us with this outsourcing — such as TaskRabbit, Zaarly or Fancy Hands. A year later in Spain, Etece and, more recently, Glovo appeared.

It all started with the App Stores and the need to define a method of payment. Then, mobile technology was developed not only in the technology level, but also in its use, which is much more important, and this led to the massive usage of smartphones and connections. Once the structure was developed and inspired by the model of the mobile marketplace Uber, several entrepreneurs began to speak of “Uber for X”, where X is whatever one can get through mobile phone (mobile first) immediately and the demand of which is not of a digital service, but a physical product or service, as is the case of Postmates, Instacart, MyTaxi, etc. In conclusion, we could say that the mobile phone, its expansion and its context have fueled the economy on demand, in real time and in a collaborative way: the “Uberification” of the Economy.

US-Based on-Demand Mobile Services / Graphic Credit: @schlaf

In this Uberification, a distinction could be made between the service that is truly on demand, as Uber, given that the user requests a product or service, which generates a trigger in the system to meet that demand immediately; and the service that allows users to request something and that service will arrive at the agreed time as is the case of Instacart. In both, physical demand is added via mobile, which is what we are talking about here.

Its future tells us we are becoming more capricious as consumers (which validates our principle); these services will verticalize and their mobile versions will tend to be mobile first in most cases, and even more if the demand is in real time or immediate.

Verticalization

Such is the case of TaskRabbit, that has pivoted to an increasingly specific version of its services, or Uber, which has launched variations of its classic service, such as: UberRUSH services for shipping, UberFRESH for grocery shopping or the recent test launch in Barcelona for sending food home, UberEATS.

Mobile First

When we talk about mobile first, we don’t only talk about the device, but also about the context. I don’t know who the pioneer of aggregate demand via mobile was, but I think the near future will be very much as it’s outlined by WeChat in Asia (used with doctors as with taxis), monetizing messaging applications through aggregation of these services. In the end, the cost or the biggest barrier of any application is the generation of the audience and messaging applications are something that have won in this because of their “network effect”.

My experience

A few years ago, inspired by Fancy Hands, I started developing a service called Dele.ga and its claim was “Personal Assistants for everyone”. A paid service which allowed you to outsource tasks that could be done in 15 minutes and could be emailed, for example: “Find me and make me a reservation at a Japanese restaurant in the Bernabeu area for Thursday”. I didn’t make a business plan but, instead, went straight to execution. I made a small model in Excel, a logo and a website (landing page), and I started doing a little experiment by buying keywords and seeing if people were interested. I discovered that the service was very wide and very difficult to explain and needed an uprighting — I think they have reached the same conclusion with similar services.

Dele.ga landing page prototype / Photo Credit: @betobetico

Today I’m rethinking Dele.ga and, clearly, verticalization and the need for it to be mobile first are two things added to the model. I have already found a segment and for the first time, rather than tell you what I did, I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

The future

Once demonstrated, the market potential in the industries and vertical “Uberifications” in the economy will begin with increasing efficiency. Further increase in efficiency and productivity means that most of the tasks performed by human employees can be reduced through better management, automation, and centralization. Within the market system, however, an increase in productivity will in theory lead to staff reductions because companies need fewer workers and they receive lower wages due to competition. Based on this, it would not be unreasonable to think of what we talked about in the past about the multimillion-dollar investment that Google made on Uber, and the subsequent purchase of “cars-without-drivers” by Uber days later.

Paradoxically the principle of “scarcity of time” takes into account technological unemployment and process automation. The “Uberification” of the economy will not generate that technological unemployment, but the jobs will be transformed into others.


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Alberto Benbunan

Written by

Founder and Managing Director at Mobile Dreams Factory. Professor @ IE Business School. Angel Investor @bufferapp @thebrandriders among others.

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