I was speaking with my wife and naturally the topic of economic incentives came up. What led to that topic is not important, but it brought forward thoughts that I have about what I see in our economy, and what is not working in the United States.
I see lots of startups popping up, in all sorts of industries, but I also see many problems with how much value is extracted at the cost of most consumers.
Helping consumers spend more money—this is assuming that the market has enough money to spend. This explains why so many products and services are focused on those that have disposable income to spend. Businesses win. Consumers who can afford the product or service win. Everyone else gains minimal to no value.
Helping consumers get something for “free”—but is there anything that is truly free? Advertisers pay a lot of money to target ads, and companies are incentivized to get their users to see as many ads as possible, even if it comes at the cost of a user’s time. Businesses and advertisers win. Consumers are exposed to a lot of ads, and while they might buy something related, they ultimately lose precious time.
Helping consumers make “money”—a number of companies offer payment in exchange for consumers spending time doing something, often answering surveys. Many companies extract value from the ecosystem and consumers end up with the leftovers, in the form of tiny incentives—a chance to earn gift cards. Companies win. Consumers end up with a $5 Walmart gift card, minus time spent. Walmart wins! (Oh, and if you don’t qualify for the survey, you still end up spending 10 minutes answering qualifying questions, and leaving with nothing.)
I can’t think of any companies that use a model that effectively helps consumers earn money at scale. Without going into governmental policy that effectively transfers money, like an unconditional basic income, I believe that it is possible for a business to bring this type of model into the free market.
With that said, the most important question would be:
Who has the money?
Businesses have money to spend—this money often comes in the form of a departmental budget. Businesses aren’t in business to give money away, so they need some kind of return on investment (ROI) from the money they have to spend.
Who needs money?
The biggest need for money is among everyday people. With the constant strain of inflation, it seems that there is not enough of it to go around. But there is enough money to go around.
How can we get money from those that have it to those that need it?
This is probably the most pragmatic approach to helping people have greater access to capital. Businesses have money to spend, so the best way to transfer this money is to connect businesses with consumers that can provide value in return.
What value can consumers provide businesses, to make money?
This is the magic question. This is what I am focused on, as I try to build out Pivvt and FeeFi.