‘The Uber of’ … you name it


(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

It could be a depressing symptom of the Internet age, or a testament to the strength of car-on-demand service Uber. (Or maybe both.)

But these days, it seems like everyone wants to be the Uber of something.

Uber comparisons are popping up everywhere to describe companies that provide a similar sort of convenience to customers: Just use your smartphone to get things that you want, when you want them.

Washio is an “Uber-for-Laundry,” according to Techcrunch.

An Uber for your teeth? There’s a mobile dentist start-up for that.

A New England company, PlowMe.com, is hoping to become “Uber for snowplows,” and there’s an Uber for TaskRabbit” (“an iPhone app called Exec that helps people complete tasks on demand,” according to All Things D).

Need a tennis partner, wine or liquor delivery, a private workspace, a car to test drive, or help with coding? There’s probably an Uber equivalent that can help you with those things, too.

Companies are moving quickly — and astutely — to use technology to fill service-delivery gaps in ways that Uber helped popularize. Call it the “on demand industry” or something else, but there appears to be a market for companies that help solve some of the more mundane problems in our lives — like doing laundry.

Of course, Uber could have easily been called “the Seamless of car service.” Years before Uber launched, the Seamless founders disrupted the restaurant-delivery world by allowing people to order takeout without ever picking up the phone.

But a thousand Uber comps bloomed, prompting McSweeny’s to publish this satirical piece: “We’re the Uber of organ transplants.”

(And note that this naming trend isn’t limited to Uber. There’s now a Tinder for dogs, an Airbnb for hookups and a Netflix for books.)

Before you blame tech and business journalists for all this Uberizing, it’s worth noting that many, if not most, of the “Uber of [whatever]” descriptions originate from the Uber-ish companies themselves. Of course they do: Uber parallels are good for funding pitches. Or, as a piece on Medium put it: “Give Me Money Mr. Venture Capital! We are Uber for X!”

There’s even “an Uber for things” now. The courier service was launched last month by Uber itself.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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