October 25, 2013
If you’re reading this, you are likely a startup enthusiast. You probably believe startups are the future and you put your money where your mouth is. I can tell by how you support innovative technologies on KickStarter or how you are a diehard promoter of your favorite startup’s product instead of the market incumbent. Whether you know it or not, your patronage gives startups more and more control over your life and not before long, they’ll run it.
Before you accuse me of getting all Isaac Asimov on you, I believe in startups. I’m an avid beta tester and always root for the underdog. For the majority of the world, it would be considered wise to keep core areas of your life mundane and accept the shortcomings of your current options.
But for the crazy ones, those frustrated with the oligarchies of enterprise, here are the startups disrupting not only old-school industries, but also precepts on what the utilities of your life ought to be.
It would be silly to touch on startups and utilities without addressing the Internet. As free as DARPA or Al Gore intended the Internet to be, somehow the majority of it still rests in the clutches of cable companies. Queue the wavering of the red cape, zoom in on Karma.
Karma is a socially-enabled Wi-Fi provider. No contracts – the more you share, the more data you are allocated. I’m pretty sure the guys that build business models for cable companies consider this sacrilege. As soon as my contract is up, my Verizon MiFi will soon become an expensive paperweight.
Banking + Finance
I’ve been longing for a loving relationship with a commercial bank. One where they hold my money, add meaningful interest to the balance of my account, and don't extort me with fees for using the bank's standard services. A fairytale love, indeed.
Simple intends to be your white knight, right down to the ivory Visa card they provide. An integrated finance solution, Simple comes with a favorable banking offering, money management tools, and technology to make every benefit hyper-accessible. I’m a Simple user, and I’d be lying if I said it was fully-delivered innovation, but I’m on board for the journey.
The newest, and conceivably hardest, addition to this list is Oscar. The afflictions of affordable health care have been bandied about so often in the political sphere that it is hardly worth highlighting here. Oscar provides health insurance to individuals along with prescription discounts, free physician visits, and on-demand access to practitioners. Admittedly, I have no idea how this is going to work. Insurance is a highly quantitative, nuanced, and regulated field.
The actuarial science needed to build a profitable business, network of geographically dispersed healthcare providers to provide adequate coverage, and the legislative landmines buried inside HIPAA and Obamacare, represent only a few of the obstacles this company will face. Currently, Oscar is only available in New York, and I travel entirely too much to trade the title of early adopter for effectively uninsured. Bleeding edge is just one phrase I prefer to keep figurative.
There’s real pain in these industries, and I believe Karma, Simple, and Oscar are aiming at real, world-changing issues. If you endorse the change they are looking to bring about, please do get behind them. Your support as “Technorati” brings us one step closer to “startups running your life” being an anthem of hope, instead of a hacky SciFi title.
Guest author Shaun Johnson is a technologist, early adopter, and helper of people. He is the cofounder of Startup Institute. Previously, Shaun was an associate at TechStars, the #1 startup accelerator providing seed stage investment and mentorship. He is a recovering management consultant and has advised companies in various spaces across the emerging technology landscape. Shaun is also an entrepreneur in residence at Georgetown University and has helped numerous startups with product roadmapping, getting off the ground and taking market share. Shaun holds a BA in computer science & sociology from Georgetown University and an MS in information systems from The Johns Hopkins University.
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