New York: The Original ‘On Demand’ Economy?

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New York City is a buzz of anything you want, anywhere you want it, at almost any time you want it: Cars come when they’re called. Chinese food is delivered seemingly before you put down the phone. Personal assistants fetch the tiniest, most frivolous items. Hair stylists will come to your home, and bodegas are open twenty-four hours a day.

This is basic New York. Anything you want within easy reach. The world at your feet. A city primed to serve, when you want it and how you want it. Or as Tanner Hackett at the On Demand Economy puts it, “The original on-demand economy.”

Join Thumbtack, Instacart, Google and others on June 2nd to discuss on-demand services and other changes in the local marketing ecosystem.
Join Thumbtack, Instacart, Google and others on June 2nd to discuss on-demand services and more.

The buzz of “on demand” has became so loud that its meaning has become a bit distorted. “It’s not just about instant gratification,” says Hackett, whose company, Button, created and has incubated the On Demand Economy industry group. “It’s about what you want, when you want it.” (Re/code, in a series last year, decided to call a spade a spade in its “Instant Gratification Special Series” which looked at Uber, Instacart, Deliv and others.)

In New York, getting what you want when you want it isn’t about birthright. It’s a necessity. That’s because in the city you are almost always pressed for time. Your travel time, no matter how immediately your conveyance arrives (be it subway, taxi or Uber), is commonly at least a solid 30 minutes to any destination, be it work, lunch, social engagement, etc. Your work hours are punishing. And if you want to squeeze in the gym and maybe have time to sleep, and eat, you are really doing some skillful math to come up with enough hours to get all that you need, let alone desire, to do, without a little help.

And now that original on-demand economy it is expanding on the constructs of the Uber-Instacart-Venmo economy.

“These companies are manufacturing time,” says Hackett.

For many in New York, on-demand services are just a continuation of the conveniences that already existed. Uber is a better taxi, Stitch Fix is a time-shifted personal shopper, Instacart is is the standing delivery order from the supermarket on your block.

Across America, “New York” is arriving, in pieces. You don’t have to make it here [New York City], because they’ll make it for you there.

Laura Rich is CEO and co-founder of Street Fight. She will be moderating a panel on the on-demand economy at Internet Week on Tuesday, May 19th at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.