Over the last year, I've gone through some serious personal and professional changes. I moved to a new city and bought a home, took on a different role at a company I co-founded, and shifted my focus to more creative pursuits. Throughout the process, I did a lot of soul searching and reflecting on what was important. Essentially, I began to rethink everything: My career, my ultimate purpose, my use of technology, and my connections to friends and family. I left no stone unturned.
From a cultural standpoint, I became fascinated with how technology is enabling all of these wonderful things while simultaneously robbing us of focus and human connection. What are the boundaries around devices, and how can we－as those in the tech industry－build products and machines that are "mindful" of humanity? Is it possible to have both efficiency and empathy?
In terms of companies that impact our our daily lives most people would probably name a major social media site like Facebook or the e-commerce giant that never seems to find its way out of the headlines: Amazon. But there are so many other companies that are nudging our lives in new directions for the better. They are helping us through our home-buying journeys, connecting us with people as we navigate new places, and encouraging us toward healthier ways of living.
Here are just a few I discovered during my own personal journey.
Omni keeps your life clutter-free
Essentially, Omni wants to help its customers simplify their lives by storing all the stuff they don't use, which keeps them from wasting money on a storage unit or being forced to get rid of things they may want to keep. So when I downsized prior to my cross-country move, I tapped Omni to help me store and then access those things.
Instead of requiring consumers to buy a fixed amount of space (much of which often goes unused), Omni allows them to store items individually for a much lower price. For example, "standard items" (such as books or small appliances) can be stored for just 50 cents per month, while larger items like bikes or a chairs can be stored for $3.00 per month.
Additionally, the company allows customers to rent their stuff out or have access to it elsewhere. You can put a surfboard in Omni, and it can meet you or a friend at the beach. When you're not using it, someone else can rent it for a small fee. In other words, Omni is offering the right "on-demand" service at the right time.
Porch alleviates the stresses of home ownership
Remember when a broken dishwasher or a malfunctioning water heater would force you to scour the yellow pages or ask your cantankerous uncle to stop by over the weekend to "take a look at it"? Those days are gone and they aren't coming back.
Porch is a unique offering that connects homeowners with a network of 250,000 professionals who can deliver over 1100 different types of services that happen in the home - from plumbing and HVAC to painting and window repair. From my personal experience, they are a great resource for everything from a local handyman to speciality pros like electricians.
Although the company is only five years old, it's clear that their technology-driven platform puts them toe to toe with incumbents like HomeAdvisor. This is for good reason: Their Home Assistant balances genuine human interaction with bot-based artificial intelligence. They offer personalized project assessments, detailed cost calculators, project guides and more, all of which gave me confidence throughout the process.
As a new homeowner in a new city, I had one hundred things I need to do, most of which were completely outside my wheelhouse. I was grateful for Porch and will definitely be enlisting them in the future as the whole homeownership things seems to be a never-ending journey.
Nextdoor keeps us connected with our neighbors
Ironically, feelings of isolation and loneliness are reported by an increasing number of people despite the fact that we live in a hyperconnected world. Far more Americans live alone in their households (that's me!) today than in 1950. While we may be making strides in many areas, feelings of loneliness aren't generally solved by most technological advancements.
While many social media platforms give us the ability to connect with people all over the world, Nextdoor encourages users to interact with folks who live right down the street. Users are required to provide their real names and verify their addresses, and networks only consist of people who live nearby.
But the most significant impact may be its potential to address a growing problem in the United States: Since Nextdoor was founded, it has expanded to more than 165,000 neighborhoods and it now has users in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany. Perhaps this impressive growth tells us that people are desperate for relationships that don't just exist online.
By blending the ever-increasing popularity of social media with physical connections that people crave, Nextdoor is showcasing a business model that will likely be emulated.
Thrive Market delivers organic products to your door
When I finally got settled into my new home and neighborhood, I wanted to spend as much time as I could going out and exploring Nashville. Things like grocery shopping weren't necessarily at the top of my list, so upon suggestion from a close friend I joined Thrive Market. Not only do I believe in their mission of making organic food less pricey and more accessible to the masses, but it allowed me to skip the markups and hassles of traditional grocery shopping.
For $59.95 per year I have wholesale organic products delivered to my house - a model that some say is a marriage of Whole Foods and Costco.
As a Thrive customer, I can choose products that represent more than 70 different "values." Whether its pasture-raised beef, non-GMO, dolphin-safe tuna, or fair trade-certified chocolate, I can find products that reflect my individual ethical concerns.
By combining the ease of online shopping with an inventory of affordable organic products and a well-defined ethical core, Thrive has carved out a unique place for itself in the retail food market. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the company has 400,000 customers. Now make that 400,001.
Also not surprising: The companies mentioned here seem to be cornering their respective markets. Why? Probably because they are consciously and mindfully developing their products while keeping their human customers top of mind.