It all started four years ago…
Freshmen year of college, I first had the idea for Grabbit.
The idea was simple.
You’re at a store and you want to save money.
Your friends want something but they’re lazy and don’t want to get up from the couch.
Well, you could ping friends with a snapchat-like interface and select which friends would get notified that you’re at (or going to) a specific store. Those friends would then be able to place an order for pickup at the store you’re currently at. You’ll then receive a discount on your own order based upon how much business you bring into the store.
This was awesome for retailers for two main reasons:
- They wouldn’t need to spend as much money on delivery (saved margins by 10%) and could reach customers directly.
- Retailers can batch their customers into networks to market more efficiently and increase basket size.
I could go to the local coffee shop, have my friends order three or four coffees for my friends who were hungover on Sunday morning, and get my coffee for free or at a discount. It was a savior for my wallet.
I studied the on-demand delivery model in college my sophomore year. Companies like Postmates were raising high rounds for on-demand services.
But this model didn’t stick with me. Not just because of the ridiculous margin Postmates took from retailers, but because of the social behaviors. I didn’t know what it was about the time, but friends helping friends get what they want seemed more natural.
I spent the next few months actively jotting down why I wanted to build a peer-to-peer delivery infrastructure as opposed to an on-demand model. And finally it clicked — my previous life events were connected with why I decided to build Grabbit.
Why I really built Grabbit
It’s no secret we’re living increasingly more digital and our attention is becoming scarce. We live in a physical world only to enjoy those moments digitally. We use social media as a portfolio of our physical experiences and status.
We’re on social networks to be social about ourselves and not for others.
Grabbit wasn’t just about helping friends get the goods they need and saving money for yourself.
It was something much deeper. It was about fostering physical, human relationships with self-incentivized needs. Using technology as an aid for relationships rather than a crippler. It was about the alignment of incentives between retailers, retail customer, and the retail customer’s social network.
At the end of the day, Grabbit couldn’t scale. There were technical challenges (proof-of-delivery, proof-of-location, payment integration challenges) and selling the whole vision past a few retailers were a pain. I had solutions for these technical problems but they weren’t great. Also more importantly, the timing wasn’t right.
Can cryptocurrency align incentives in physical relationships?
Just as I was about to fold my company in 2017, I realized most of these challenges could be solved with a cryptocurrency. I began to explore the benefits, the drawbacks, and the integration. I didn’t want users interacting with blockchain —users should have to earn crypto by completing deliveries for friends and then spend that cryptocurrency wherever they want.
I didn’t pivot the company into a blockchain company. It was too early for consumer adoption and the infrastructure wasn’t built out, and still isn’t built out completely. We’re getting close but still have some years to go until consumers and retailers are ready.
If cryptocurrency can potentially strengthen human relationships on the hyper-local level by aligning incentives then blockchain can do so much more. I’m excited by what cryptoeconomic models come about and how mainstream, non-technical consumers interact with this ecosystem.