What happened to imitation?
SISS, July 2020
Once upon a time there was a taxi. It was the first taxi. Someone at some point, brought an ancient method of transportation into the modern age, by offering to ferry people from A to B for a price. Before long the kingdom was filled with black and yellow cabs which buzzed around our fair lands, until eventually they became the most handsome of handsome cyber-princes called… the Uber
In essence, the self-made, self-starting, self-propelling emblem of free enterprise, which is now common, almost the world over. However, there is something odd about this latest service which has successfully managed to straddle the service to app revolution – it has gone unchallenged. Why is that, when only seconds after the first taxi firm was formed another competitor came along to do the same? Why are there no Uber 2.0’s?
The marketplace itself has always been ripe for competition, indeed in the ‘analogue taxi world’ we even have illegal cab firms who can enter and still make money. So why is there still only one Uber? To answer that, and to then assess the likely new entrants into that marketplace, one should tear away what we know as obvious. The concept of the taxi itself is not what drove the success of Uber. It is the technology and the hunger for speed and efficiency of service which it feeds so effectively. And yet we already know that one of the most copied, imitated, and IP vulnerable sectors is technology.
The answer is simple. Competition will have to catch up soon. It has already taken far too long in our view. It is not because the cash incentive is not there because the ROI has been clear to see. There is no IP protection and the cost of entry is minimal. The most logical next step is to provide the consumer with choice – it is after all the construct of the internet based “comparison” age and basic pillar of competition. On my first experience in an Uber, a long time after it started, I asked the driver what the terminal on the dashboard was for and how it worked. He told me it was his interface with Uber. He paid them for it. It gave him everything he wanted to know. Where to go, how to get there and how much he would get paid. My next question was, what if there was another one from a different company placed along side it? Which one would you choose? He said, whichever one made me more money.
Obvious questions. Obvious answers. Why has it not been done? Clearly having an infinite bank of terminals is not possible, but one terminal with the all the Uber “counterparts” is surely the most logical and cost-effective solution. It might not mean big bucks for Uber, or indeed the firm that sits alongside it, but whoever has built the technology to compare them and sold that to the cabbie – now that is a firm I want to invest in. Why? Because then it will be that firm controlling the market, not Uber. So, forget the Lyft’s of this world for now, look at what it is, or who it is, that will control…them.
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