Is life-as-a-service efficient or lazy? I say yes.
What does “life as a service” mean? It means one’s lifestyle needs are obtained on-demand, or as a subscription service, rather than having to purchase or acquire them through traditional commerce models. To best understand the collaborative economy market, I’m trying to live it within my own personal life as well as my business life. This means that I can rent or borrow goods rather than own them. It also means the things that I want can be delivered to me without me having to visit traditional retail stores.
I keep a “purchase log” to be mindful of consumption of goods
I’ve reduced my consumption of durable goods. In fact, I keep a “purchase log” of all the durable goods I’ve bought since June 2013. It’s fewer than 54 discrete transitions, and some of those transactions included multiple items. It includes a few clothes, batteries, electronics and gifts for others. It does not include travel, food or personal health products. What’s key is that I’m conscious about my consumption and trying to use what I have, before obtaining in other ways. I have enough stuff. Really.
Not for every region – yet
A few caveats. A great deal of these services are located in Silicon Valley, where most of these startups have originated. Just as people said in 2006, “social media is just for early adopters in Silicon Valley,” we soon learned it spread internationally wherever the internet is present. Some of these services are currently limited to areas with access to advanced technology. As I write this, I’m in rural Southeast Asia, where you won’t spot any Lyft mustaches. With that said, these new opportunities will open up, first in tech laden cultures with high population density, then spread just as social media has over the last decade.
Here’s some of the “Life as a Service” services that I already use:
- Clothes: Trunk Club sends me clothes every few months. I do not see these clothes in advance. They are selected by a wardrobe coordinator assigned specially to me. Once they understand my profile, I determine how often I would like to add to my wardrobe. A “trunk” of clothing is sent to me on a predetermined schedule. I get 10 days to try the clothes, keep what I want, and return the rest. I pay only for what I keep. It’s like having my own personal valet and stylist. The longer I do business with them, the better they understand my tastes and are able to deliver exactly what I like.
- Assistants: Zirtual, billed as “the secret weapon of successful people,” is like my own personal executive assistant. My days and weeks are scheduled and coordinated by my own personal assistant, saving me time. Zirtual is a 24/7 go-to that will book travel, handle my emails, obtain event tickets, arrange transportation, pay my bills (unfortunately, with my money – not theirs), remind me of important dates, conduct research and even order my lunch!
- Food: Eat24 delivers complete daily meals ordered from a mobile app. From sushi to sauerkraut, Eat24 literally delivers over a million different dishes from thousands of restaurants in the U.S. We use Eat24 to get entire family meals, on demand, sent to our house from local restaurants, with just a few clicks.
- Transportation: Uber gets me quickly to my destinations. When I need to move about town, I simply contact Uber through the app on my smartphone and they deliver me to any place I desire, in the style of my choosing, using their vehicle and their driver. Those of you who know me, also know that I am not that hung up on style (which is why it is so easy for Trunk Club to outfit me), so I usually choose the uberX option, which is a smaller car that gets me where I am going just as effectively as a luxury model. The beauty of Uber is that I can choose the luxury option or any of the other options in between. I take the Caltrain as well.
- Office space: at co-working locations. Impact HUB is cropping up all over the world, with locations currently in over 40 major cities, including San Francisco and Berkeley. I don’t need to own an office, because I can work out of a local Impact HUB that is a shared workspace, designed to promote the principles of the Collaborative Economy. It’s more than just shared space. I’m also experimenting with other co-working locations.
- Shopping: Google Shopping Express delivers nearly everything from staples to sparkling water and from shaving cream to salted nuts, within hours, from major retailers like Target, Walmart, or Office Depot. I’ve been using Google Shopping Express for quickly-needed items, such as durable goods, electronics, personal care, and even water by the gallon that I didn’t want to lug around in my car. I question if this service is truly sustainable, as there’s no minimum on how small an item could be delivered.
- Toys: Pley is the service I wish we had when I was a kid. It’s a Lego rental service. You can rent a set, then return it when your children are done with it. You can even exchange it for a different set. The real beauty is that you don’t end up owning a Lego set stored in a box in your attic once your children have outgrown it. My child will be graduating from Duplos, and we really don’t want to own a product with such a short useful life span.
- Smart phone. Apple recently bought back my iPhone 4S when I purchased a new iPhone 5. So, in a way, I rented that phone, making the device usage nearly circular and helping to protect the environment so that my old phone doesn’t end up in a landfill or in the back of one of my desk drawers.
- Munchery deliveries our fresh, healthy dinners. Munchery is quite an amazing business model. You pre-program when you want your food delivered, and it’s at your doorstep on time for dinner in a cooler, ready to be heated. In this shared business model (thanks Shervin Pishevar for the intro), professional, high-end chefs share supply chain, kitchen, delivery, marketing and more. Fresh, local, healthy food is shipping quickly for about $13 a meal.
- A purse (rental) for my wife via Bag, Borrow or Steal. In addition to buying her fantastic purses to own, I also, on a whim, purchased her a small gift certificate to this high end purse rental business. Want a $5,000 Coach bag for a fraction of the time and fraction of the price? That’s now possible. This raises questions about what gifts of love can be. Are they physical goods (a diamond is forever), or experiences on demand (a trip to Phi Phi island)?
- Many others. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, so I will add a few notable examples as I try new services.
Closing thoughts: some drawbacks, but an overall net gain.
You can live the good life in the Collaborative Economy. Life as a Service is possible. I’d guess that there’s a typical upcharge of about 10-15% on goods as they become services. But, if the time saved can be reclaimed to be more productive, or to enjoy quality time with the family, it should be regarded as a net gain in a busy lifestyle. With that said, there are always drawbacks. One can become over-dependent on the network and ecosystem. Interdependency can increase and formerly self-sufficient individuals can tend to get focused on the few skills they are really good at. I hope that these experiences help me to better conduct research on this market, as well as help our Crowd Companies council members.
In a future post, I’ll do a rundown how we’ve tapped the crowd for our company, Crowd Companies, (naturally).
(Creative Commons usage of image, “Fast Man” by Nikos Koutoulas)