It was a Thursday in February, 2014, when Marc Gorlin, an entrepreneur in Atlanta, needed spare tiles for a bathroom remodel. Only problem: They were in a warehouse hours away. “There had to be someone already making the trip who’d be willing to throw some tile in their trunk for $20,” he says. “If only I knew who they were.” This experience sparked the idea for Roadie, an on-demand app that connects people to help ship almost anything, quickly and affordably.
Since the introduction of ridesharing mobile apps in 2010, the on-demand service industry has exploded into almost every type of business. It’s now easy to find someone in practically no time to shovel your driveway, do your laundry, make you a custom suit, give you an in-home makeover or deliver just about anything.
People are hooked. More than 22 million Americans are spending some $57 billion annually in the on-demand economy, according to the Harvard Business Review. Turbulent changes to some industries—like taxi and retail—have occurred as a result.
But on-demand has also opened up opportunities for entrepreneurs. Now almost anyone can get into the rideshare or delivery business—even without owning a car or a phone. And 45 million Americans already have.
Upsides … and a Downside?
For consumers, the convenience is obvious. Send flowers with BloomThat and they’ll arrive within 90 minutes in some large cities. TaskRabbit can dispatch a handyman in one of its many markets to help with things like moving furniture or mounting a TV. Grocery and alcohol deliveries? Of course. And since JOIFUL brings treatments like facials and massages straight to your door, you may give up going out to your favorite spa.
But are we losing something by not leaving home? After all, salons and grocery stores double as opportunities to socialize and build community. “Technology does allow you to push people away,” says Roadie’s Gorlin. But ultimately, he says, his service and others are actually bringing people together by connecting strangers who otherwise wouldn’t have met. “It’s pretty amazing,” he adds.
So what does the future hold? Even more convenience, predicts Gorlin, with “smart” everything: cars, homes, cities and warehouses, all speaking to one another to complete tasks at the push of a button. Says BloomThat co-founder and CEO David Bladow, “The on-demand business is almost like magic”—and companies are bidding to be the next great magician.
Working in the On-Demand Economy
A survey from Time shows why working in this rapidly expanding sector could be a better fit for you than you may think:
- 71 percent love working in the industry.
- 39 percent are female.
- 59 percent live outside an urban area.
- 51 percent are 18–34.
- 64 percent expect to be better off financially in the year ahead.
Working in the on-demand industry? Having multiple policies can be complicated—and leave you with coverage gaps. Avoid all that with a single policy from GEICO.
Read More: Want to make some money in the on-demand economy? Here’s the skinny on driving for a rideshare company.
By Ashley Rapp