“More important than anything else is the look on people’s faces when you cross paths with them in the street, or in the store, or in the grocery line. You can always tell that you were—maybe still are, maybe always will be—a part of their family. Movies have this thing where it’s an event. You get dressed up, you go to dinner, and you go to the movies. You’re outside of your element. But with television, people are watching you in bed, at their kitchen table eating. You’re in their house.”
Vanity Fair has this great longread “With Friends Like These” about the history of the Thursday night Juggernaut Friends. The pilot is nearly 20 years old, which is bananas. It’s a great read though, and more than anything shows the value of creating an open, creativity-encouraged environment and the difficulty and balance required in any sort of ensemble-affair.
For those unfamiliar, Cherry is a come-to-you car wash mobile app. The app marks your location and you send in a request. $30 later and your car is washed for you, tip included.
While what the business does is pretty cool (for all you car lovers), I think what it represents is actually more interesting. To me, Cherry has become the poster child for the Service Layer of the web. This “service-layer” exists above the application layer, and powers the person-to-person economy that has been growing slowly and is about to explode. How do I know it is going to explode? Just watch the money — Fiverr (announced last week), TaskRabbit, Zaarly, and Uber have all raised eight-figure venture rounds in the past 12 months. To me it’s a bit reminiscent of the mid-2000s social-networking boom, when everyone seemed to know that one was going to explode but it was unclear exactly which one.
While Cherry might not become the largest of these service-layer businesses, it is my favorite because of its elegance and simplicity. It does one thing in a large market really, really well (car wash market is $6b according to quick Google search).
What’s interesting is that I am not sure a business like this would have worked even as recently as 2009. Smart phones are getting faster and easier to use and as a result, these service-oriented businesses will have a much easier time getting to critical mass.
Additionally, the underplayed aspect of all these businesses is that the require pretty significant behavior change. It took *years* for ebay and craigslist to really take off because there was such an understanding gap about how the platforms could be used. Some of the more generalist platforms like TaskRabbit and Zaarly might run into this problem, but Cherry will likely not because it is so specific.
Although these service businesses will be harder to scale because of the very arduous and potentially messy offline component, that is exactly why they present huge opportunities.
Ultimately, there are incredible inefficiencies in the offline distribution of human capital. That is something we learned the first time around with the massive growth of web businesses, and something that we are going to learn all over again with mobile.
Now, if only they would come to Brooklyn and wash my car.
please enjoy this photo of a sudsy kuwait-based lambo (via googs).
Media pricing: a topic that never gets old and never has any right answers. As we continue to see more and more pricing models tested (micro purchases, digital subscriptions, firewalls, all-access streaming, etc.) I wanted to take a moment to think about magazines.
The conclusion that I reached yesterday is that, despite the fact that a magazine is a magazine, I now believe that a stand-alone magazine and a magazine subscription are actually two different products with a different set of substitutes, creating a different mental model and perception of price around the exact same product.
Let me explain. Yesterday I went to a bodega and spent $26 on magazines to read without a second thought. While some of the mags I bought offer subscriptions for like $10/year, I wouldn’t consider subscribing. Am I going to buy more than two $6 magazines in a year? For sure, so economically it’s better for me to subscribe rather than binge buy.
But buying a bunch of magazines to sit and read on a Saturday is an activity, and the substitutes are expensive. Going out to brunch/dinner, seeing a movie, going to a museum, etc. All the obvious substitutes are in the above-$20 range.
Subscribing, though, isn’t really an activity as much as it is a media choice. The substitues there are significantly less expensive and sometimes even free. If you are making the choice to align with a specific publication, why wouldn’t you just read their website instead? There’s also the non-trivial guilt that comes with not keeping up with your issues, especially with weekly publications.
As a leisure product, the willingness to pay is much higher, even for the same product. As much as this is a cop-out, I don’t think we are ever going to find the best and most-optimized way to price media because the product itself is so malleable that we must be content to keep trying.
Great marketplace businesses always have the appearance of
thriving marketplaces before they ever achieve true liquidity. There are a ton of hacks you can use to get there, and they are some of the most interesting stories in all of startuplandia. Going to put an epic collection together to post here soon. Email me if you have any to add.
In honor of ROFLCon this weekend (sads I am not there), I would like to pontificate on Scumbag Steve and a new era of meme-age. I can’t think of a scenario to date where someone unknowingly became the subject of a meme, found out about it, and then incorporated the meme persona back into his/her real life. So many layers of meta here that I just don’t know where to begin.
From what I understand, Scumbag Steve was just your average wannabe white rapper with a MySpace page and an unfortunate photo. A reddit user finds the photo, adds some funny captions, and all of a sudden Scumbag Steve was on a tear across the internets.
He was the wannabe rapper who comes to your parties draped in fake bling, drinks all your beer, and steals your friend’s wallet on the way out. Everyone knows a Scumbag Steve. Everyone.
Normally this would end up just like any other meme story – the actual real person from the photo might be somewhat traumatized and then would fade away. But not Scumbag Steve. He embraced the meme personality even though Scumbag Steve is a complete asshole. He took to educating other meme victims and has developed a little bit of wisdom in a space where there’s really none. He writes to Annoying Facebook Girl:
“Now don’t have your folks look for a meme support group for you, cuz there isn’t one. We’re out here by ourselves. You may feel hurt and embarrassed that somehow one of your friends or foes took that godawful picture of you (we know you really don’t look like that all the time, right?) and put it where the internet meme makers dwell. 4chan. Don’t go there, especially if your parents are looking….Now, if you do see a pic of me, try not to go all wifey on me but (scumbag joke, these memes can get inside your head) that too was a pic of me a little younger, looking like a scumbag. Let’s face it. The pics look pretty true to form.”
And in an ironic twist of internet wonderful, yesterday he releases an actual rap video and after a day it has crossed a million views. The meme becomes reality. Is there such a thing as a reverse meme, or has Scumbag Steve has just pwned the entire internet?
I remember when Sideways came out and there was that joke about Merlot that old people found funny (21 at the time, I just didn’t really get it). Merlot, I guess, was a meme at some point and then it wasn’t.
I am wondering when some dessert-related alcohol is going to come in strong with some inescapable Sriracha-like branding and just blow our collective minds. We’ll see it everywhere and begin ordering it with increased frequency. Like Merlot or Chardonnay, it will be a meme for a while and then disappear.
The consumer product market trends are incredible in the way they spread: greek yogurt, coconut water, 5 Hour Energy, etc. Nowhere and then everywhere. Dessert wine is ready – it’s an ignored category ripe for disruption and a part of the meal that people mostly ignore.
Phin’s latest must-read, “Mobile is the 99%” rightly points out that mobile and touch-devices specifically cater to the experience of the 99% — the people who consume, curate and comment across the web.
The impromptu Mechanical Turk survey I put together last week made this even clearer — this idea that people mostly use their mobile devices for short bursts of consumption. The apps that have done the best on mobile so far – reddit, games, photo-related apps, Twitter, all are designed around passive consumption.
In this way perhaps the future of mobile is like the early days of television – just sit back and watch and you’ll be entertained. This idea of curation vs. creation is perplexing because I can’t decide if they are necessarily at odds, though I can’t help but wonder if, because it is hard to be an awesome creator on mobile, does it mean then that we about to enter into a period of hyper-consumption ushered in by our mobile devices? TBD.
Slash Blog is a collection of thoughts about creative technology, mobile product design, new hardware and the future written by me, Amanda Peyton. I am a technology entrepreneur living in New York City working on a new company called Grand St.