Is Uberization Innovative?

Tying loose ends of things like streets, rails, cables…together creates wide infrastructures. Infrastructures enable (economic) activities.


Most are of good nature for a traditional principle of sharing: trains, buses, telephones…Sharing of infrastructure, resources, input (not output).

We can also understand shops, schools, hotels, bars…as objects of this kind of sharing, but let us concentrate on sharing in operational environments based on traditional "networks". Their problem is usually the "final distance". How to get to the remote hidden place, or into the little peripheral street…with low cost.

In electronic communication we have crossed all severe boundaries left. With a change of the media: from cables to air.

But traveling? Of course, we have taxis, car rental…

The rise of Uber

It's a ride-sharing service. It has established a fast growing transport network. But their network doesn't have any physical objects at all. They coordinate drivers and passengers. Based on a sophisticated software. Their business model depends on the connection of riders to drivers. The basic idea: use driver/car pairs in their downtime and let clients pay for it in a marginal cost regime.

They use available methodologies and technologies of ubiquitous computing to manage a "one-click" come-together and its administration.

Risk? What will happen in a future of driverless cars - will they still be in business and just cheaper?

At the other hand why only rides? "Uberization" would work with every service. But there are others who (also) know a lot about clients, providers, second sources.... Amazon comes to my mind.

Innovation types

I selected this example to show that new power can be built atop existing things. It's the idea and the passion to do it, that makes the difference But new power needs new values - self-organization (replacing institutionalism), transparency, a nowist and maker culture…

The Uber innovation is of the matter type: sharing-in transportation-atop ubiquitous computing services…its structure type is peer-to-peer connectivity with simple interaction (style type)…its reality type may be dominated by: make it real and grow and look what the rules say (some speculative aspects facing challenges of regulatory bodies…).

There are other matter types beyond Sharing - Funding, Producing, Distributing..

New power with Funding/Producing/Distributing?

Finance an innovation by selling Futures (contracting the obligation to buy your innovation at privileged conditions) and buying Options (contracting the right for the production of a certain volume of your innovation for a fixed price from an outsourcing partner).

This is what is usual at the mass commodities markets. They do not "invest", they clear input and output…and have special margin arrangements with the clearing houses.

You need lower investments, get more information about your markets…

And there are methodologies and technology that quantify the fair value of the futures and options.

Who does it?

Is Uberization innovative? IMO, yes, but incremental. It can be copied.

Edit: this post has been inspired by the Dec-14 issue of the HBR magazine. "Unberization" I found here (Six Pixels of Separation)