I was walking into JFK in 2013, but it might as well have been Ellis Island a hundred years ago. I'd spent the better part of 6 hours pressed against a window seat by 250lbs of hungover, fetid male. Stiff, surly, and shiny as a glazed ham, I entered the main part of the terminal and found a line for cabs that extended back to roughly Chicago.
The absurdity of the situation wasn't just how spoiled I was for whining about having to wait for an hour. The issue was a line of cabs waiting for a line of people all flowing through a single dispatcher, slowly guiding people to the most fitting car (mini-vans for families, clattering death traps for individuals). The exact same spot of curb had been serving as the same traffic bottleneck since JFK had been called Idlewild.
Thankfully, a car service named Uber was there to ease my suffering. As discussed in a Breakout video last March, the Uber smartphone app allows users to log in, book a car, and get picked up in less time that it would take to shuffle 20 feet in a cabstand line. The app even shows your car making its way towards you on a GPS map with a timer letting you know how long you should expect to wait.
Menlo Partners is an investor in Uber and other companies serving the "Right Now Economy." In the attached video Menlo Investors' Managing Partner Pravin Vazirani explains what that means. "Consumers are able to receive goods and services much faster than in the traditional way, and suppliers are able to ramp up and launch their businesses faster than the traditional way as well."
Think of the entire economy as one big cabstand problem. On one side you have customers trying to buy goods or services. On the other side entrepreneurs are burning time and money with unsold product. The "Right Now" companies are those that facilitate an exchange between the two sides without going through the ancient channels.
It's not just cabbies and passengers being brought together, but retailers and shoppers as well. Consider Poshmark, another Menlo Partners company. Poshmark lets women buy and sell clothes without going through consignment stores or eBay (EBAY). Women looking to buy or sell a special event dress can download the app and be in business almost immediately.
"Poshmark is uploading a million dollars a day into their site," claims Vazirani. "That's the equivilant of one full Nordstrom (JWN) store worth of inventory every 15 days."
Uber and Poshmark give buyer and seller confidence that the transaction has the legitimacy of a professional transaction, assuaging the risk of being scammed via sketchier online offerings. Both services are taking off as genetically impatient Americans circumvent antiquated channels of commerce.
Suffice it to say those who profit from the old ways of doing business are getting nervous. Uber has been fighting attempted bans in almost every market its entered since inception. They can whine all they want, but the incumbents don't stand a chance over the long haul. There still aren't jetpacks, but technology is finally starting to deliver on the promise of immediacy. Customers want it right now, and they can finally have immediacy at a fair price. The old ways of doing business don't stand a chance.
More from Breakout: