When I arrived at college in the early 70s the basement of the student center had a ride share board I could use to hook up with somebody for the trip back home. It died out pretty quickly, apparently the cost of travel crossed some threshold (or the coordination costs rose) and the students started traveling on their own. These days there are services to help you find a second passenger so you can use HOV lane, and there are a few rider matching service popping up that are in fact more analogous to taxi companies.
Matching services (Intervac, OK Cupid, etc. etc.) a subset of middlemen, account for a large swath of the various species of internet business models. There are even firms that have portfolios of match making sites.
There are have historical precursors for all these match making buisness; like my school’s ride share board or the gay hook up that used to circle the block across from an apartment I rented.
And then, I was triggered to recall ads in the subway in NYC for SCORE. And I see that SCORE, service that matches small businesses with retired business mentors, is still around. I was reminded by a PR piece in today’s paper about an internet business based on a similar idea. PivotPlanet brokers matches between small business operators and folks that are thinking about getting to that line of work. It’s pricy; for example say you wanted to shadow a micro-brewery operator for a few days; that might cost you $120/hr – but they are all booked up. So maybe an ice cream shop instead. They have a long list.
There is a bit of literature about why small business men in a given industry don’t actually compete with each other, but instead generously and enthusiastically share information with each other. So I don’t find this surprising. And then there is that pattern where the house flipper gets out of the business and instead sells a training program buy renting a boat hiring some pretty girls and making a late night infomercial.
I find it fascinating that the founder originally started Pivot Planet as a kind of travel agency. He was selling “vacations” where you visited the mentor. That’s kind of similar to the agencies that broker trips to interesting places where you do some service work as part of the trip. But then there is a lot of specialty travel brokers. The boundaries between education, training, and recreation keep getting fuzzier.