We'd all be billionaires if we had a penny for every time someone told us they had the best idea ever. "It's Uber for X!" they say. While I am not saying you should never try that model if starting a new venture, I am saying that it is more "annoying buzzword" and less innovative every time it's used as a comparative.
I think we can all agree that innovation comes from building upon things. Without the telephone landline there would be no iPhone, without the TomTom book there would be no Google Maps, and without both of those things, Uber would not exist. But Uber didn't just build upon a platform. Uber replaced the yellow car all together. They used existing technology to create a new twist to an old industry - they redesigned it. Sure, Taxi Magic helped you get a cab, but they had issues we can touch upon another time.
While redesigning is definitely a key to success for some founders, it is not the only key. Sometimes a little reimagining is the better and more innovative way to conquer and fix a problem.
There are a few interesting companies I've been looking at in the last couple of weeks who have taken old industries and ramped up their functionality rather than change the business model altogether. Consider Munchery. Sure, the company delivers food from amazing local chefs, making it easy for them to sell and do what they would be doing already, without the fuss, but they aren't truly "on demand" because they ask you to book in advance. A newer company here in San Francisco that brings personal stylists to your home called Boon + Gable, is like Instacart if Instacart were free and came with a private chef who taught you to cook. While at first glance this does seem like another "on demand" company, looking a bit deeper, it's not, and I think they are a great example of reimagining vs redesigning.
Boon + Gable has created a way for us to shop -something we already do- while avoiding the lines, tedious physicality of going store-to-store, and every other painful thing in between. They are not limited to certain brands or stores and they don't replace boutiques or salespeople (some of the stylists on the platform come from boutique stylist backgrounds, actually). The bonus is: Boon + Gable is free to use. Compare them to Trunk Club, which sends you a box of packaged items - and only comes to your home if you ask. It isn't part of their core offering. At scale, they could replace brick & mortars all together, especially since Nordstrom acquired them. You may be getting a box of items picked for you, but you still have to return them and you still have to figure out how to put things together in your closet. Boon + Gable, in contrast, built upon the personal stylist idea and decided to give stylists mobility as their core offering, support small and mid-sized business as well as limit each visit to 20 items so as not to take up much client time.
Why does this work?
Especially for founders looking to differentiate themselves, reimagining a functional industry shows thoughtfulness and deep understanding. Boon + Gable's example shows support for businesses and shoppers alike.
Right now, creating tech marketplaces are sexy and sometimes that Uber for X idea is best left for well, Uber.