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Uber for the Green Industry

August 4, 2014 -  By

Uber“Do you know what Uber is?”

I’ve found myself asking people that question often over the last few months as I’ve worked on the cover story for this issue of LM.

No, not uber, the German word for “over.” Uber, with a capital U.

If you’re not in the know: Uber is a smartphone app that connects people who need rides with vehicles for hire. It replaces hailing a taxi or calling for a car. You just open the app, request a ride and a car is there to pick you up in as little as a few moments. The best part is no cash changes hands. Your credit card is on file and you’re charged automatically for your ride.

First I asked my co-workers if they’d heard of Uber. About half of them had. Next, I asked my husband. Not a chance. Mind you, he doesn’t have a smartphone. I even asked my 4-year-old. She seems to pick up every other word that comes out of my mouth, but not this one.

The reason I’ve asked everyone this question is simple: If you’re familiar with the app, you understand instantly what I mean when I say there are a handful of startups striving to be “the Uber for lawn mowing or snow plowing.” It clicks better than saying, “I’m doing a story about companies that are using mobile, location-based technology to connect homeowners with landscape contractors.”

Before my Uber straw poll, I thought we were safe slapping “Uber for the Green Industry” on the cover of the magazine and calling it a day. Heck, Uber’s in more than 100 U.S. cities, including my hometown of Cleveland. (Easy with the Cleveland jokes—don’t make me remind you we also have Johnny Manziel, the 2016 Republican National Convention and, most recently, LeBron James.)

My research didn’t exactly show overwhelming familiarity with Uber, but in the end we found some middle ground with the headline, subhead and artwork we chose for the cover of this magazine. If you know what Uber is, you get it. If you don’t, well, you’re going to wonder why we’re using a weird word on the cover of LM, so you’ll immediately flip to the story and read the whole thing. Am I right?

Whether or not you were previously aware of Uber, I’d like to say how exciting it is to witness new ideas and innovation entering the landscape industry.

I suspect there will be much discussion and some controversy about whether these mobile platforms are good for landscape companies. Are they just middlemen or are they adding value? Do they perpetuate a commodity mindset? If so, does that matter for some services?

The beauty is the market will decide. If quality is high and consumers are happy, it benefits the platforms to keep the contractors happy, too. Maybe that means service providers get a bigger cut of the revenue? Hopefully, it means these firms’ founders will continue to innovate.

I know it’s still too early to tell what will happen, but it’ll be uber-interesting to watch and find out.

Illustration: Mike Kasun, kasun.com

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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