We have all had one or more ideas that we immediately laughed off as grandiose or just not feasible right? Many of us have also had that one idea that we did nothing about and later found that someone had beaten us to it. However, what is rare perhaps – certainly for me – is for one idea to fall into both categories.
So imagine my mixed emotions when I came across a Business 2.0 post about LicketyShip, which at first glance appeared to be a precise execution of an idea that I had long ago filed away in the “not-a-chance” category of business ideas.
Business 2.0 describes LicketyShip as offering “person-to-person, same-day shipping using a network of couriers”. Replace “shipping” with “delivery” in that description and you would have an exact description of my dead and buried idea.
My idea was to build a network of couriers from everyday folk going about their everyday business . So a social network where Member A could send an item to Person B through Member C, who happens to be travelling to Person B’s town from Member A’s for some reason – work, pleasure whatever. The service, I thought, could be particularly good for items sold on eBay that are awkward to mail through regular postal services like FedEx in the U.S and Royal Mail in the U.K.
Hey! Ok, you can stop laughing hysterically now. Business 2.0 and is all about disruption. Why not disrupt the courier industry? Now in case someone is reading this and thinking why is this such a bad idea (and I am hoping that at least one person is), it wasn’t that I thought the idea was terrible or impossible, I just knew that I didn’t have the experience or resources to pull it off. Some of the many challenges that such a service might face are:
- Pricing – how do you price deliveries to make the business worthwhile for the couriers and yourself whilst remaining competitively priced in relation to regular couriers?
- Trust – how do you build the public’s trust in the service? I did figure that the whole thing could be based around a social network whereby the sender is somehow connected to the courier. This could however be too restrictive and make it difficult to find couriers.
- Reliability – things tend to “come up” in the lives of everyday people that do not happen in the lives of regular delivery guys. For example a part-time courier is likely to give greater priority to getting to work on time than to making the delivery on time.
- Logistics – not insurmountable but the dynamics of such a service would be complex and require specialist knowledge that I certainly didn’t have.
So although I figured it would be good to have a social network with a real purpose for a change, I quickly decided that my big idea was taking the whole Web 2.0 thing too far.
Less than a year later however enter LicketyShip. Is LicketyShip Web 2.0 gone too far too? Is it even Web 2.0 at all? Ok, let’s not even get into that old chestnut of what is Web 2.0. A closer look at LicketyShip’s service reveals a couple of key differences to my idea.
For one thing LicketyShip is not a social network, which may not be a bad thing given the large and rising number of them out there already. Another difference – and I may be wrong in this - is that LicketyShip does not appear to use everyday people like I was thinking of doing. It says it will “scan our network of couriers to find you the best delivery deals in your area”. To my mind, this suggests that the company sources business for regular courier companies that are on its books.
So not quite the idea I had in mind and if I am honest I think LicketyShip may have a better chance of success than my idea could. I think this because my idea would face the same challenges that LicketyShip will encounter and then some. LicketyShip appears only to be trying to change the way people access courier companies and to bring courier companies closer to people who might otherwise not use them. Unlike my idea, it does not appear to be attempting to change or replace the courier companies themselves or alter significantly the way courier services are provided.
So what do you think about my idea or LicketyShip’s? Should I have pursued my idea? Is there someone out there who wants to give it a go? If so, I did come up with some interesting ideas for tackling the problems listed above and others. I would be happy to discuss them if someone is interested.