In many ways, Uber and Airbnb represent a 21st century update of the franchising model. In franchising, the parent company brands and markets the product, sets standards for producing it, and charges a licensing fee and receives a percentage of revenue from each of its franchisees.
The difference is that technology radically lowers the barriers to being a franchisee. In many ways, you can call the modern trend “the franchise of one.” The smallest unit of franchising in the past was a small business, with all the overhead that implies: real estate, equipment, uniforms, employees (including managers), and so on. Today, the franchise can be a single individual, and that individual can work only part time, so it’s really “the franchise of one or even less!”
Branding and advertising are much less necessary because the app itself becomes a customer habit that delivers business. There are little or no capital requirements, workers can schedule their own time, and turn their own under-utilized personal assets (a car, a house, or other equipment) into business assets. In her book Peers Inc, Robin Chase refers to this as “excess capacity.”
Internet era networks don’t just seek to eliminate workers, they seek to augment them. Invest in software that empowers your workers, allowing them to multiply their effectiveness and to create magical new user experiences for customers.