Local grub and why mobile matters

I’ve been looking at buying a new laptop. I have been considering buying a netbook mostly because if I can reduce my cash outlay from approximately $3,000 to $700 that makes me happier. But I haven’t bought a netbook. I keep looking at a MacBook Pro, a Dell m1330 and a Sony Vaio Z. And I realized why, Joey deVilla describes the problem with netbooks

Slightly bigger and pricier than a phone, but can’t phone. Slightly smaller and cheaper than a laptop, but not that much smaller or cheaper. To adapt a phrase I used in an article I wrote yesterday, netbooks are like laptops, but lamer.

The mobile device is the platform of the future. Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, Symbian and Windows Mobile.These are the platforms. There may be others that emerge. Sure there are economics for application developers that are being explored. Simply, much of these economics are about distribution, customer acquisition and retention costs and the necessary scale to run a successful business.

There is a different model which is similar to Google (read Googlenomics), Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, etc. A marketplace with a transactional model. Consider mobile devices as an enabler for players in a ecosystem. How does the availability of personal computers and the emerging high speed mobile smart phone enable?

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FarmsReach is a marketplace for “buyers to order food from local producers through delivery or local markets”. It uses technology to enable the transactions between local food producers and buyers. Using the web and mobile devices like the iPhone, FarmsReach is able to leverage an existing infrastructure of home PCs, carrier wireless networks, mobile devices and GPS to build unique applications for each person in the value chain. It’s brilliant. It also starts to look like something we’ve seen before. Who are the players in the local food production and distribution value chain? What part of the existing value chain are you disrupting? How are you going to acquire customers in each layer? What do you need to build as part of the prototype?

I first saw Alistair Croll present FarmsReach at DemoCampGuelph8 and have been in love with the business they are building. And I’m not alone, FarmsReach is winning awards and trying to change the world.

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Identifying trends is important. Look at some assumptions around FarmsReach:

  • There is a growing local food movement
  • It is incredibly difficult for local farmers and local consumers to connect, other than through existing retail outlets
  • “Only 30% of farmers use the Internet as part of their business” – Keep It Rural
  • Average age of farmers is increasing (indicator that less young people are choosing farming as a career) – Farming For Us All
  • To attract/retain younger generations farms need to embrace technology – USAToday
  • High penetration of PCs in rural areas (yeah, it’s UK data but it demonstrates a point)
  • New mobile devices and data connectivity allow for distributed solutions

It is incredibly important to understand the societal, economic, technological and other trends that are happening. Use them to help predict your market, to predict customer behaviours and expectations, to look for opportunities.

Where to look for trends:

Startups can learn a lot from FarmsReach.