Über has literally taken the world by storm. The taxi industry is up in arms claiming the technology is essentially unregulated transit, and therefore anti-competitive and virtually illegal. They’re filing lawsuits left and right trying to defend a business model that’s been pretty much neglected for over 5 decades. If you’re not familiar with Über, it’s essentially a ride-sharing app that lets you find a private car to take you where you want to go directly from your phone. Simultaneously, AirBNB will become the world’s largest hotel chain within 2 years and it owns no hotels or hotel rooms — it’s essentially a room sharing app. What do technologies, like these, mean for professional services firms?
This post is a part of a series on disruptive technology. To see the other posts in the series, jump to the end of the article.
A Sea Change in Consumer Behavior?
But, the interesting part of these stories aren’t really the technologies themselves, it’s some of the potential consumer behavior underlying the adoption of them highlighted by Roger McNamee at the 2014 Middle Market Summit. Some of the interesting data Roger shared:
- For the last 50-60 years, over 90% of 19-year olds had a driver’s license.
- About 10 years ago, it started to change. Today, only 69% of 19-year olds have a driver’s license. Yet, 83% own a smart phone.
More and more young people are choosing not to drive and not to own a car. They’re choosing to live in more urban areas, more frequently sharing spaces with others, and relying exclusively on public transit (and services like Über) to get where they want to go. The real question he posed was this — Is this data just a blip? Or, is this an indicator of a change in consumer mindset? Is it part of a gradual shift towards an “asset light” lifestyle? As Millenials age will they fall into the traditional suburban model we’ve adopted for the last 50-60 years, or will they opt for something else entirely? A lifestyle embodied by owning less, sharing more, and living almost entirely mobile. We don’t know for sure, but depending on the nature of your firm, it might be worth paying attention to.
Implications on the Professional Services Firm
This shift in consumer behavior, if it’s real, could create opportunity for some professional services firms.
For A/E Firms
How could an “asset light” lifestyle affect the nature of cities, suburbs and transit? What about the nature of work? More and more companies (Yahoo! aside) are looking to deliver more versatile and flexible work environments — work from wherever you want, whenever you want. More and more consumers are looking for flexibility in where they live. What does all that mean to traditional corporate headquarters? What does it mean to shared commercial office space?
For Consulting Firms
These are really interesting trends. The other side of companies like Über and AirBNB are that their cost of supply is practically zero. They don’t own anything. They essentially connect an empty seat or an empty room with someone for a very short amount of time and take a percentage of the transaction. How do your clients compete with that? What other resources are ripe to be “shared?” Which of your clients are at risk?
Our 5 Part Series on Disruptive Technologies
The inspiration for the series was a handful of speakers (Salim Ismael, Roger McNamee and Jeff Immelt) at the 2014 Middle Market Summit hosted by GE Capital and the National Center for the Middle Market. Here is a list of all 5 articles in this series: