If you’re into mobile apps, you’ve probably heard the expression “Uber for X” in reference to applications that bring users together with a product or service in a quick and efficient way.
“Uber for X” apps offer entrepreneurs a great model for making money by connecting supply and demand for a marginal fee, usually from a service provider or product vendor. They also mean new opportunities for job creation -- drivers for Uber, shoppers for Instacart, you get the idea.
But this “sharing economy” model also comes with its own unique set of challenges, like building customer trust, establishing reliability, building capacity, and demonstrating value in comparison with traditional service providers.
This week we’ll take a look at 5 startups we think exemplify the Uber for X model, and how they overcome some of the challenges we have just mentioned.
Minibar: Uber for Alcohol
There’s no situation worse than running out of booze at a great party, and none more dangerous than running out to get more once you’ve already had a few beers or glasses of wine.
Fortunately, Minibar is there to bridge the gap between those who want to keep the party going and the local vendors who sell your favorite beer, wine, and spirits.
Minibar allows users to browse the shelves of their local liquor store, and place orders. Delivery generally takes between 30 minutes and an hour (just enough time to finish your last drink), assuming you’re in one of the areas Minibar serves.
Importantly, Minibar is neither a delivery service (they don’t employ drivers), nor a vendor (no liquor license). This means they don’t have to worry about monitoring drivers like Uber does, or maintain a stock of products.
This is a perfect model for a lean startup that doesn’t have the time or resources to hire dozens of drivers or constantly update pricing info on an in-app menu. Like Minibar, you can leave all that up to the vendors themselves.
Minibar was founded by New Yorkers Lara Crystal and Lindsey Andrews, and has received over $1.8 million in funding from Winklevoss Capital.
You can get the party started on Android and iOS.
Plowz & Mowz: Uber for Lawn care and more
Having a house is awesome, but it comes at the price of having to keep your lawn beautiful in summer, and your driveway clear of snow in winter.
Plowz & Mowz which was founded in 2013 by Syracuse natives Wills Mahoney and Andrew Englander, sets its sights on taking the hassle out of home maintenance.
So how does it work?
Users in certain areas can connect with landscapers and snow removal companies, schedule appointments, and pay for services rendered all through the Plowz & Mowz app. Once a service is complete, providers send pictures to verify that they actually did the work (this is perfect if you’re on vacation or out of town).
What’s great about Plowz & Mowz is that it helps contractors get exposure they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford and the extra work that comes with it. P & M also offers free fleet management tools and GPS tracking through the app. Pretty cool, right?
It’s not just cool, it’s a great way to establish yourself with the people that matter most -- your clients. In the case of “Uber for X” apps, your clients are both the customers who receive a service and the individuals who provide them.
Delivering free tools to service providers makes their jobs easier, their bottom line fatter, and everybody’s customers happier. Now that’s added value. Plowz & Mowz is available for Android, iOS, the web. You get even get a free estimate for services on their site.
Plowz & Mowz is available for Android, iOS, the web. You get even get a free estimate for services on their site.
Cambly: Uber for English tutors
Those of us who speak, or in my case try to speak, a second language know just how important it is to get real-life practice with native speakers.
If you’re trying to pick-up English, but there aren’t many Brits, Yanks, or Aussies around, you can always download Cambly.
Cambly is a mobile-first Android and iOS app which connects students of English with native-speaker tutors for on-demand, live video sessions. All students have to do is register, scroll through a list of tutors for someone who seems like a good fit, and start the conversation.
Though Cambly vets its tutors, it isn’t really looking for seasoned pros. Rather, its aim is to facilitate fun conversations between real people looking to broaden their horizons.
Cambly makes connecting with native speakers easy, though not necessarily cheap. Students pay Cambly $20 an hour for the service, of which the tutors get more than half. Not a bad way to pick up a few extra bucks in your downtime, which is what the Uber economy is all about.
The big value for both students and tutors is the fact that it is live and on-demand. No more trying to find classes that fit your schedule, or waiting for a class session to begin. This puts Cambly way ahead of the competition from traditional sources of second-language learning for adults like educational institutions or software.
The brains behind Cambly belong to two Google alums, Kevin Law and Sameer Shariff, who got the idea for the app after trying to pick up second and third languages and realizing that native speakers made it much easier.
HouseCall: Uber for . . . almost everything
Sometimes it’s hard to find the right pro for the job, whether it’s painting a room, installing an air conditioner, or even learning to play the guitar.
HouseCall is an app that makes the process of finding, interviewing, and hiring local pros easy.
Actually, HouseCall is really two apps-one for customers of local service providers, and one for the providers themselves.
The former can search for local pros based on categories like cleaning, plumbing, tax and accounting, etc., view profiles (including reviews and pricing) of candidates, schedule appointments, and make payments all through the app.
The provider-facing app is even cooler. Not only can users get alerts for service requests, invoice customers, and receive payments (for a 2% fee), but they can also send out advertisements (called “Postcards”) to potential clients for $65 a pop. This makes HouseCall a platform for everything from booking to invoicing to payment to advertising.
Best of all, it’s free for Android and iOS.
HouseCall was founded in 2013 with $1.5 million in seed funding from e.ventures, and in 2014 received a second $1.5 million investment, this time from Canter Capital.
YourMechanic: Uber for everything Automotive
Tired of taking your car to the mechanic every time you need new tire or an oil change? Why not use the YourMechanic app to bring the mechanic to you?
The app’s users can schedule house-calls from local mechanics at their convenience. All they have to do is tell YourMechanic what’s wrong with your car, as well as the make, and model, and wait for the quotes from local mechanics to come in; chances are, prices will be 30%-50% lower than in shops.
Not only does YourMechanic let you schedule appointments and make payments, but it also comes with a 12-month/12,000-mile service guarantee. Guarantees are a great way to build trust into an “Uber for X” style app, and one which will go a long way towards alleviating the concerns of first-time users.
Currently, YourMechanic is only available for iOS.
If you have a great idea for an “Uber for X” app but need a little help bringing it to life, reach out to the Android and iOS pros at Yalantis. We’ll help you figure out how to bring supply and demand together in a way that’s sure to make users wonder how they ever lived without your app in the first place.