A number of new companies have become successful not through creating their own product but by simply connecting customers with other products. Is this the future of business?
It used to be people complained about how companies in the Western world weren’t building things anymore. The counter argument was that the knowledge economy was taking over. We make not be manufacturing products but we’re creating ideas.
But now, a new wave of companies aren’t even doing that. All they do is connect – albeit in an efficient and affordable way – customers to services and products.
What they provide is a service, but in a way that is easily accessible and fits around our lifestyles. They make our lives run more smoothly and are rewarded handsomely for it.
The rise in social media has been part of this sea-change. Big firms like Facebook and Twitter are mere conduits for our content. And people have taken this model and applied to it everything from taxis to food.
The retail sector was also a leader with sites like Amazon, Ebay, and more recently smaller companies like Esty and Net-a-Porter all selling other people’s products.
Here are some of the new businesses making a killing from making nothing…
One of the more controversial companies of recent times, their approach was not to link consumers to taxi firms in a better way, but to link customers to anyone who wanted to be a taxi driver.
They basically outsourced taxis to the public causing outrage among registered drivers and even some local authorities. Importantly, they did it at a much cheaper rate. They realised people in large cities were getting annoyed at paying what they felt was over the odds for short journeys and found a way to get around this.
Unlike Uber, AirBnB targeted people that were already in the market and gave them a way to provide their service in a more ordered manner. People had been renting out rooms and house swapping for years but it was usually done through message boards or an agent.
AirBnb gave these people a platform. The site was easy to use for both client and customer and, like Uber, allowed the businesses to rate the customer.
Takeaway and delivery services have been running for decades, sending their food out on scooters to hungry customers in their homes.
It’s a wonder then that it’s taken so long for a service like Deliveroo to come along. Instead of just getting second-rate takeaway food, Deliveroo will go to your favourite high-quality restaurant and pick up your meal for you.
Takeaways had been improving for some years but this took it to another level.
It’s not just lifestyle companies that use this model. 99designs offers small firms the chance to get professional quality graphic design at a price that suits them.
Clients pay up front depending on how many responses they want and give a brief. 99designs fires it out to their designers. The client then chooses the design it likes best.
While many new firms are starting to use this model, it’s actually been around for some years. Property search firm Rightmove was one of the first to pioneer it.
Instead of having to visit lots of individual estate agents, home buyers could visit one site where they all advertised their properties. Rightmove doesn’t actually work as an estate agent.