Someone build this: Uber for Cash $

Posted on June 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have been walking around without cash in my pocket for 24 hours.  As I walked to lunch today, I realized that the restaurant I was going to was CASH ONLY.  I made a pit stop at a local deli, where I paid $3.00 to retrieve $200 and continued on my way.  As I reflected on the inconvenience, I was reminded of a disconnect that has existed in my mind for more than five years.  It never made sense to me that I had to go to a bank or ATM to get money…I always thought how cool it would be if cash was delivered to me instead…the gating factor that always throttled my desire for a “Cash Delivery service” was cost.  I couldn’t figure out how to stay within the bounds of acceptable transaction fees while employing a courier force to move money from central locations to the edge where consumers would request delivery…ATM Networks are an edge network that pushes money from a central location to NEAR where a consumer needs money, but still they require the node or  ultimate end point of the cash (the consumer) to travel away from it’s natural state or position in physical space in order to receive the funds.  The optimized cash distribution network would get cash into a user’s pocket without inconvenience or deviation from day to day life.

As I reflected on this problem, I realized that the world is different than it was the last time I considered my “cash delivery service.”  Today we live in a world where smart phones have penetrated mainstream.  Consumers are used to pressing a button, and having value delivered to them.  Goods and services now travel to users instead of the other way around.  If I want a car, I press the uber button.  If I want food I press the seamless button.  In both of these cases, a combination of location based technology and easy to use software on top of existing supply side infrastructure allow me as a node to chill where I am and have value come to me.  In Uber’s case, they leveraged existing car services and drivers to satisfy the supply side of their marketplace, and there were enough cars operating below capacity to satisfy demand.  In Seamless’ case, they leveraged existing restaurant delivery infrastructure to satisfy supply in their marketplace.  Which brings me to the second major change in today’s world that didn’t exist last time I thought about “cash delivery.”  In today’s world of COLLABORATIVE CONSUMPTION, consumers have learned to transact with each other directly in markets that used to be dominated by enterprise.  So B-2-C transactions, thanks in large part to advances in the social graph and a universal identity/trust layer, have started to become C-2-C transactions.  Companies that have been enabled by this trend include AirBnb which allows consumers to rent rooms from their peers instead of hotels or Lyft which allows consumers to get a lift from a pier instead of a cab service.

Ok, so at the convergence of one click delivery enabled by LBS and Collaborative Consumption enabled by social identity layer…I present to you: UBER FOR CASH $.  My demand side network looks a lot like Uber or Seamless. Press a button, and have cash delivered to you wherever you are.  Very simple…but that was never the problem.  Sure smartphones make it easy for me to give you a slick UI to express your demand and location, but the supply side was where cost became an issue in my previous vision…but we’ve seen with Lyft and Airbnb that consumers are willing to be the supply side of previously enterprise supplied markets when properly incented and with the right tools…so today I propose the supply side of cash delivery service is everyday people…in fact the network of supply is MASSIVE.  Way larger that Uber or Seamless’ addressable supply.  Every single person on the street has the capacity to satisfy demand with the cash in their pocket.  It’s a 7 Billion node walking ATM network.  I envision users, much like uber drivers, getting a push that says “Jordan C is requesting cash .1 miles from you.  (btw he has 5 star rating and is not going to murder or rob you).”  Supply side user “accepts”, walks over, matches Jordan C’s picture with the guy sitting at the prescribed location, and hands Jordan C $60 out of his pocket.  Jordan C’s account is charged $3 fee.  Supply side users account is credited $62.  Newco Cash Delivery Service keeps $1.

Granted, that arbitrage is tight, and the economics of incentivizing supply and operating within bounds of acceptable fee structure need some massaging and deep diligence, but that is but one revenue stream to newco…I think you could figure out some creative ways of subsidizing the arbitrage with secondary and tertiary revenue streams….

So yea, who wants an ATM app on their phone?  Press a button, cash shows up?  I know I do.

P.S. if you want to build this, i might invest in you.  go do some research and then holler

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14 Responses to “Someone build this: Uber for Cash $”

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This is what Taavet and Kristo are doing at Transferwise for, now, cross border transactions

do you think it could work for physical currency?

what’s physical currency? 😉

relevant question…but 10 years too early

This is like an ATM scene straight out of “Frances Ha”!

MVP would be piggyback on an established curated service platform like Task Rabbit. Big risk there is you create the underpinnings for Cash Rabbit.

instead of “arbitrage” i think you mean “spread” or “margin”. there is no arbitrage here in any meaningful sense of that word.

holy shit 🙂 amazing, had no idea…guess someone beat me to this idea 🙂 usually the case…thanks for sharing

I see this becoming like Gigwalk! But instead of taking pictures of restaurants, you deliver cash instead. I am looking for something new to create, I will try to take a stab at this and see how it will pan out. I will create a mockup and flow chart and send it to you for feedback before hacking something.

Hi Jordan – this is interesting. Here are some of my notes and ideas on how to test this and get started:

Problem statement: moving from current location to go to an ATM.
This is almost undoubtedly a pain for most anyone.
Some questions I would want to explore through customer development interviews to get deeper insights (using your restaurant use case):
Is the problem that people forget cash prior to going to a restaurant they know doesn’t accept card?
Is the problem that they didn’t know the restaurant doesn’t accept card, receive the bill, and have to run out?
Is the problem that they have to stop on the way to the restaurant they’re going to that they know doesn’t accept card?

Here’s the customer development I would do to start testing:

Demand side:
Get one high volume, non-card accepting restaurant to let us hang out there for the day. Bring a bunch of money. When a guest needs cash, have the waiter send us over. Offer to get the guest cash. Use Square, Venmo, or other mobile payment product to accept credit payment for the cash plus the fee. Perhaps no fee in exchange for a ten minute customer development interview. Perhaps tell them it will be a 20 minute wait just to test the value proposition of not moving (vs wait time) and to mimic the actual live service. (I am concerned weight time might be perceived as outweighing benefit of not moving).

Will learn whether Uber for Cash is perceived as valuable to the demand side. As well as why or why not.

Supply side:
I agree with massive supply. Our economy is definitely going through some major changes.
I would reach out to active TaskRabbits to do customer development interviews. TaskRabbits because they’re likely the same kind of people who would be the supply side for Uber for Cash. Through effective interview questions I would aim to learn whether they see this as valuable. (I am concerned that ~$2 for ~20 mins of work would be enough). For validation, I would ask if I can text them when someone needs money. And then place an order, just as a test.

Note: these ideas of course not scalable. But by spending the time up front, you can avoid wasting a lot of time and money on something that’s not viable/of value to both sides of the market. No funding, no product development, no team, no partnerships, no user acquisition time or spend. You can also gain strong customer insights to start driving product decisions.

Other use cases would require different experiments. I’d do more customer development outside of restaurants to get that sorted out.

Input/output efficiency – does not moving outweigh having to wait for the delivery? (perhaps depends on the specific use case)
Is this sustainable? Will there be a need for ATMs or physical cash in 10-20 years? Will the stores that don’t accept cash start accepting cash or some form of mobile payment?
Not strong single user utility. Requires critical mass to be viable. Controlling the sides initially, as described, might help solve this.
Will margins be too low? How strong is the pain? Will customer acquisition cost (both sides of the market) be too high? You mentioned other revenue streams, so that may be the answer.

Overall I think it’s a solid problem to solve and I think it could be validated pretty easily. There could also be other products to solve this problem — customer development interviews could probably surface something. Are you planning to pursue it?

Big opportunity (with this model/C2C) in Financial Inclusion in the emerging markets.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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