It wasn’t so long ago that Uber started a revolution in work: managing workers—or is it freelancers?—via an algorithm-driven app. The gig economy was born. Its promise was to save consumers money and enable anyone with a car to earn quick, easy cash. And, of course, to make Uber’s founders and investors rich.
That was then. We know better now.
Oh, the model is more popular than ever. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, food delivery services exploded: 60% of US consumers now order delivery or takeout once per week from DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub-Seamless, or their minor competitors. There’s only one little problem. All those gig economy promises turned out to be lies—an important lesson for smaller firms that might be tempted to try to mimic all that “success.”