Why The On-Demand Economy Hasn't Taken Off In Kansas City ... Yet | KCUR

Why The On-Demand Economy Hasn't Taken Off In Kansas City ... Yet

Jul 29, 2015

The introduction of smartphones with GPS capabilities has opened up a new world where everything can be delivered to your door.
Credit Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

We live in a time where pretty much anything you need can come right to your door, thanks to technology — that is, if you live in a big city like New York or San Francisco.

Whether it’s driving services like Uber, groceries that come right to your door, on-demand laundry, or someone who will come over in a minute to change a light bulb — the proliferation of these services, available through an app, has created what the start-up world calls “The Convenience Economy.”

But a trend that has exploded in big cities has been slower to arrive in the Kansas City metro.

Blake Miller, Partner & Director of the Accelerator at Think Big Partners in Kansas City attributes part of that to the physical layout of the city.

“A lot of it is our sprawl, we’re 319 square miles of a city. For a lot of these companies to become truly successful it’s [about] density and the clusters of people around it,” Miller told Up To Date host Steve Kraske.

That sprawl, Miller says, has led to a driving culture in the metro.

He remembers waiting to get a car when he turned 16.

“The world changed. I had access to everything,” he said.

“That’s the culture that we live in here in Kansas City, we’re kind of this Midwestern town. Many people say this was the invention of the suburbs, thanks to J.C. Nichols.”

Now , Miller says he doesn’t need a car to get access to everything — all he needs is his smartphone.

And all that driving across the city is exactly what on-demand apps can save you — time.

“It’s not about buying convenience, it’s about buying your time back,” Miller said.

That’s why he thinks Kansas City is the perfect market for the on-demand economy, though we still have a quite a way to go.

After a tough battle, Kansas City got Uber earlier this year, and Kansas and Missouri are two of 12 states that have Door To Door Organics, a service that delivers organic groceries to your home each week.  

But Zaarly, an on-demand home services company which was founded in Kansas City, moved most of its staff to its San Francisco headquarters in 2012. And Instacart, one of the most popular on-demand grocers along the coasts and in Texas and Chicago, has yet to arrive to our metro. 

Midwestern grocery store chain Hy-Vee has launched a grocery delivery service in some cities, but the service is available through a website, not an app. 

Miller says the growth of the Kansas City downtown area looks to be a perfect environment for those services that operate best in a dense urban core.

“There are five to 6,000 apartment units that are going to come online by 2017, 2018 … That could be eight to 10,000 people that make the densification of downtown even better. At the very least we have an urban core where some of these services can thrive,” he said.

He says there is an eager market in Kansas City from professionals, to young families, to the elderly and people with disabilities.

Is your favorite on-demand app available in Kansas City already? Leave it in the comments section below.