As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.
Several weeks ago, I met up with a friend in New York who suggested we grab a bite at a Scottish bar in the West Village. He had booked the table through something called Seated, a restaurant app that pays users who make reservations on the platform. We ordered two cocktails each, along with some food. And in exchange for the hard labor of drinking whiskey, the app awarded us $30 in credits redeemable at a variety of retailers.
I am never offended by freebies. But this arrangement seemed almost obscenely generous. To throw cash at people every time they walk into a restaurant does not sound like a business. It sounds like a plot to lose money as fast as possible—or to provide New Yorkers, who are constantly dining out, with a kind of minimum basic income.
“How does this thing make any sense?” I asked my friend.
“I don’t know if it makes sense, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last,” he said, pausing to scroll through redemption options. “So, do you want your half in Amazon credits or Starbucks?”
I don’t know if it makes sense, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Is there a better epitaph for this age of consumer technology?
Starting about a decade ago, a fleet of well-known start-ups promised to change the way we work, work out, eat, shop, cook, commute, and sleep. These lifestyle-adjustment companies were so influential that wannabe entrepreneurs saw them as a template, flooding Silicon Valley with “Uber for X” pitches.
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"The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive"; By Derek Thompson; The Atlantic; October 25, 2019