A second issue with the ‘uber for…’ model is that it’s a tax evasion scheme that also, in the minds of investors and credulous media people, transforms a service company into a tech company. (Nevermind that there have been taxi services with Uber-style smartphone apps for hailing cabs since before Uber came around who, of course, got comparatively little out of that because they quite sensibly didn’t consider themselves to be a tech company.)

The formula is stupid, simple, and thus far pretty reliably successful as far as literally anything in the domain of startups goes: take an existing service, fire all the employees and replace them with untrained contract workers, spend an afternoon on a smartphone app or mobile site, and call yourself a tech company. Since the tech involved is extremely simple — your fourteen year old nephew can do it after school — this is sort of a brave re-branding. But, non-tech companies in the valley don’t get ten billion dollar valuations, do they? And if you have a ten billion dollar valuation, who cares if you make a profit?

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Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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