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Coming Soon: Apps for Sharing Anything

21 January 2016

The possibilities are endless. Have a read of some of WSJ writer Joe Queenan's comically brilliant ideas. Join the movement #shareanything #hopsee

Ride-sharing apps are revolutionizing the livery business. Rather than waiting for a taxi or a bus to happen by, and often being forced to pay exorbitant rates when longer distances are involved, consumers are using startup services such as Uber Technologies and Lyft to secure cheap, fast urban transportation.

A simple app lets the consumer conjure up a reasonably priced ride within minutes. And lest anyone think this is just a fad, like urban scooters or Tofutti, consider this: Investors have already poured nearly $2 billion into Uber and Lyft. Regulators are puzzled. Taxi companies are livid. So far, the public seems enthralled.

Could the Uber/Lyft business model be applied to other areas of daily life? Or improved upon? Something along the lines of UberMensch—technically, Nietzsche may still hold the copyright on that one—where the driver is not just a hack but a sort of bodyguard and pal? Let’s say you need a ride to a rough part of town, and you’re kind of a weenie, so you want a driver who knows how to take care of himself. You don’t just want to get there; you want to get there in one piece. Ergo SidecarStud or DudeLyft or PosseFetch or DaBronxRide.

Another possibility is BadDateLyft. You’re out on a date, you can’t stand the person you’re with, so you ditch the hapless loser, type in your location and specifications and invite someone else to join you. It’s certainly an ideal way to get a marriage started: app-y ever after. Another possibility is a Wingman App, when you don’t feel like drinking alone and seek the company of a convivial stranger. The solitary tippler gets company for the evening; the wing-person gets company and free drinks. Lots and lots of free drinks—all thanks to BroShare.

The ride-sharing model could be useful in many other settings. You suddenly find out that you’re going to be working late, so why not rent out your apartment to tourists for the next 12 hours? They can crash at your place until midnight, then stay up all night riding the Staten Island Ferry. Or summon an Uber driver to give them a witching-hour tour of San Francisco—maybe even hire a driver from KangaShare to take them all the way back home to Abilene. Beats hotels and hostels any day of the week.

Could sharing services thrive in the office? Some days you get to work, and you know that you just don’t have it. You’d rather be at the beach or hunting caribou or taking in a Vin Diesel movie.

An app like UberSub could make that happen. You identify yourself, your location and the kind of work you do—retail associate, barista, child psychologist, mortgage broker—and see if anyone within easy walking distance could pinch-hit for you. Most office jobs are completely interchangeable these days, and at lots of companies employees are totally anonymous, so it’s not like anyone is going to notice if some feisty ringer takes your place for the day. This concept can also be applied to orchestras, paramilitary organizations, House subcommittees and public school faculties. Not to mention celebrity journalism, where literally anyone can do the job.

Other possibilities: EminenceGriseShare, Brother-in-Lawlyft, GriefHitch, and UberCalzone, where you have a coupon getting two for the price of one, but you can’t possibly eat two of these humongous suckers at one sitting. The Uber-hack gets a free meal; you get a free ride home. OK, OK; maybe you’ll have to throw in a beverage.

Is there a downside to sharing with complete strangers, none of whom have a license to do what they are doing? Sure, the person you summon to rent your bed or do your job or hang out with you at the saloon could be a psycho or an annuities salesman or an Ayn Rand buff. But as long as he or she comes cheap, who cares? In the world of app-assisted sharing, price trumps everything.

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