Category Archives: life

Why you don’t want your city to become Silicon Valley

Silicone Valley NewsSilicone Valley News

For the last few years I’ve heard and read that St. Louis just might be the next Silicon Valley.
I haven’t just heard that about St. Louis. I’ve heard the same thing about Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Denver, Houston, Columbus, and just about every decent-sized city in America.

Of course, Silicon Valley has a lot going for it. The region is a source of a whole lot of innovation, and the people who work there can become (or already are) very, very rich. But even if we could make St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, or any other midwestern city the next San Jose, would we really want to? Silicon Valley isn’t exactly problem-free. Some of the challenges facing residents and communities of the Bay Area prove that a staggering amount of money isn’t just a blessing.

It can also be a curse.

The cost of housing in Silicon Valley is astronomical, forcing many relatively well-paid workers into less-than-desirable living situations. In fact, Silicon Valley is one of the most economically unequal places in the world. There’s a reason why Task Rabbit thrives in the Bay Area: Teachers, police officers, nurses, and other employees working in professions that are critical to a functional and safe society often cannot afford to live in the communities they serve without trying to monetize their every waking minute.

Personally, I’m glad I live in a metropolitan area where I can afford a decent home without having to pick up someone else’s dry cleaning. In fact, earlier in my career, I had opportunities to move to California for jobs that offered a significant salary increase. However, that salary increase was more than eaten up by the cost of living. In other words, a 20% raise and a move to Silicon Valley would end with me, my wife, and our three kids moving from a home with enough space for all of us to a 600-square-foot apartment.

When I envision that scenario, I immediately think of those movies where unsuspecting tourists get sent to a cramped prison cell in Thailand.

No thanks.

For a whole lot of people, Silicon Valley is exactly the community they want to live in, and they can either afford the high cost of living or find Task Rabbiting their way through what little off time they get to be a perfectly acceptable way to live.

And that’s okay.

However, it doesn’t mean that other cities should strive to recreate Silicon Valley. Branding your city “the next Silicon Valley” is also an exercise in futility. Silicon Valley has its roots in the defense industry and the need to protect the West Coast during World War II. Before the Japanese blew up Pearl Harbor, the west coast wasn’t the center of American innovation. Instead, cities like Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit were the birthplaces of some of the country’s biggest and most innovative companies.

We should build a Silicon Prairie that isn’t an imitation of Silicon Valley, but instead is a place where a low cost of living means that a full-time worker (whether he or she is a programmer or 4th grade teacher) can afford to buy a home and spend their off-time enjoying the community they live in.

A few years ago, I was invited to visit the San Francisco offices of LinkedIn. During my visit, several employees mentioned the extraordinary cost of living, the fact that they knew they could never afford to raise a family in the city, and how frustrating and demoralizing it was. They had great jobs, could smell the ocean 24 hours a day and lived in one of the world’s most beautiful and unique cities—but many of those workers couldn’t afford to enjoy it.

I can’t smell the ocean from my front yard, but I do live in a unique and beautiful city. I don’t want to see that city become the next Silicon Valley. I want to see it become the best version of itself it can possibly be, and I believe that making that happen will depend on creating a base of technology-focused jobs.

Let’s let Silicon Valley be Silicon Valley. It can be the place where you find gigantic social media companies, good seafood (it’s true), and teachers living in vans.

And the Silicon Prairie can be home to great cities, good BBQ, and communities where teachers can still afford to live down the street from the founders of pretty exciting startups.


How Home Ownership Became The Engine Of America Inequality

New York Times Magazine via California Rail News

Almost a decade removed from the foreclosure crisis that began in 2008, the nation is facing one of the worst affordable-housing shortages in generations. The standard of “affordable” housing is that which costs roughly 30 percent or less of a family’s income. Because of rising housing costs and stagnant wages, slightly more than half of all poor renting families in the country spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, and at least one in four spends more than 70 percent. Yet America’s national housing policy gives affluent homeowners large benefits; middle-class homeowners, smaller benefits; and most renters, who are disproportionately poor, nothing. It is difficult to think of another social policy that more successfully multiplies America’s inequality in such a sweeping fashion.

5 Ways To Get Around Orange, CA Without A Car

The Panther via California Rail News

The MetroLink station is behind the Marion Knotts Studios at 194 N Atchison St. The schedule and route maps are available on the MetroLink website.

The MetroLink train costs $6.75 to the Los Angeles Union Station and $13.50 for a round trip. From the Los Angeles Union Station, you can continue using public transit by hopping on subways and buses to the location desired. If you’re looking for something cheap and accessible for a longer trip outside of Orange, the MetroLink is one of your best options.

Transportation is high up on the list of what a college student needs. Orange is a central spot for all things Southern California. There’s the beach, San Diego, Los Angeles and everything in between. The only downside to it all is getting there, especially for Chapman students without a car.

“Coming into Chapman, I was so excited about all the places I could go with all the new freedom I have, but then I realized I didn’t have a car to get there,” said Charlotte McDougald, a freshman creative writing major.

Here are a few tricks some students use to get around without a car.

Transit agencies use ‘Pokemon GO’ to encourage ridership

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and other transit agencies are using the “Pokemon GO” game to encourage public transit ridership.

Several of Metro’s rail stations serve as “gyms,” where players of the game can train and battle Pokemon, the agency announced this week. Additionally, many stops serve as “Pokestops,” where players can gather equipment needed for the game.

“For those of you who aren’t too keen on walking long distances, Metro buses and trains are a good traffic-beating option with many stations near the type of community gathering places favored by the game,” Metro officials said in a press release.

Additionally, the agency created a Twitter handle dedicated to updates about the augmented reality game, which requires players to walk around their environments to capture virtual creatures.

However, Metro cautioned players to remain alert and aware of their surroundings while playing the game. On Twitter, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and several other agencies have issued similar warnings.

Meanwhile, Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Miami-Dade Transit and others also sent out tweets encouraging Pokemon GO players to use transit to catch Pokemon.

10 Daily Habits That Will Radically Improve Your Life

Platitudes won’t help you. I know, I’ve tried to implement them all. They’re frustrating.

Go for it! Live for today! Stay motivated!

No kidding.

I’m more interested in how we can radically improve our lives.  How can we stay truly motivated? How can we maintain hyper-efficiencies?  How can we stay happy at work? How can we find true fulfillment by cultivating the most attractive aspects of your personality?

Here are ten unexpected things you can do daily to radically improve your life:

1. Don’t obsess over “how” you’ll do something.

Four years ago when I launched my agency Silverback Social, I just did it. I knew that I wanted to create a digital agency that led with social media. I had no idea how I was going to do it.

2. Invest in clothes that fit.  Yes, seriously.

My dress shirts, and suits are all custom made. This isn’t as extravagant as it sounds. You can order custom clothing for about the same cost as off the rack clothes from Banana Republic. You just have to be patient for the clothes to get delivered after you’ve been measured.

3. Meditate

Meditation can reduce stress, improve your concentration and increase happiness. But you don’t have to sell all your worldly possessions and live in a cave to meditate. Meditation can be anything.

When you’re washing your hands today. Slow down and really think about how you’re washing your hands. Feel the sensation of the water. Smell the aroma of the soap. Enjoy it. You’re meditating!

Realize that your thoughts and feeling aren’t you. Acknowledging that you’re having a thought is a powerful way to separate yourself from the thought. I recommend HeadSpace APP to help.

4. Buy a stand up desk.

We’ve all read the news and heard the grumbling of how bad sitting down all day can be for us. It’s worse than smoking etc.  I do think that my new stand up desk can be a healthy alternative.

I’m also smart enough to know that you can overdo anything. US News Health says that there are some ways in which stand up desks can do more harm than good.

The gist? Don’t stand still all day long. Alternate positions throughout the day. Also, some tasks are more well suited for sitting.

5. Shut off electronics for short increments.

I worry about the effect of electronic devices on my children. The best way that I’ve been able to remove this concern is to carve out play time without any devices around. This means that I leave my iPhone behind as well.

My girls are eight and five.  My five year old decided to try golfing with me recently. She loved it. Just the two of us, with my undivided and undistracted presence.

I felt my self reflectively reaching for my iPhone to take photos of her golfing.

6. Get up early.

I hate the morning. Really, I do. So much so that on my wedding day, my brother referenced my inability to wake up to an alarm clock in his best man speech. The crowd erupted in laughter.  Super.

7. Read more.

Reading can help improve problem solving, expand your vocabulary, and even cultivate exposure to different ways of thinking. If you really feel that you don’t have time to read, I recommend you try Audible for a free 30 Day Trial and listen to audiobooks.

8. Live in a different city at least once in your life.

When I was twenty years old,  I studied in Leuven, Belgium, and traveled to 14 different countries. That travel allowed me to grow in ways that I can’t quantify. I was able to find my way around an airport, train station, and bus terminal without incident. I ate different foods, and experienced different religions.

9. Write.

Sharing your thoughts is a powerful connector. Start with a blog, or create on LinkedIn or Medium. I wrote my first blog post and earned $260,000. I also used writing to help me get the attention of new clients, new jobs, and my television career.

Write every day and share what you know. Learn how to write better along the way. If you don’t want to share your thoughts with the world, start a journal.

I began a journal when I was nineteen and traveling through Europe. Now I read my entries to my daughters as bedtime stories.

10. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

I’m an over sharer extraordinaire. To some people it’s an turn off. Guess what? I don’t want to associate with those people. It’s the way I’m wired, and I’m not about to change because it makes you uncomfortable.

I blog about everything from my family, to my friend who was murdered. Vulnerability in life and business cultivates trust.

No pretense, just you –  unfiltered.  Try it. I dare you.


By Chris Dessi

CEO, Silverback Social

The four tiers of engagement: What Silicon Valley taught me about collaboration and time management

Recently I was talking with the noted surgeon, writer, and public health researcher Atul Gawande about his demanding schedule – and how he tries to manage it for maximum impact.

As I described the framework I use to navigate Silicon Valley and all its potential deals and alliances, Atul suggested my approach could help any busy professional trying to prioritize her obligations, not just Silicon Valley types. So I’m sharing it here.

In Silicon Valley, thousands of start-ups are taking root and reaching fruition at any one time. For those who work here, staying focused and productive becomes a challenge as new opportunities present themselves.

Early in my own career, for example, I was immersed in running my own start-up, Socialnet. It was a serious foundational commitment, but then Peter Thiel and Max Levchin approached me about helping out at their own start-up, PayPal.

That also seemed like a major opportunity, so I started wondering: Was there a way I could have a strong impact at PayPal while fulfilling my existing role at Socialnet?

As I note in The Startup of You, I reached an agreement with Peter and Max that essentially involved a formal but limited commitment of time: I would serve on their founding board of directors and promise to return their phone calls by midnight the same day.

This allowed me to collaborate on PayPal in an ongoing and substantive way and yet continue my work on Socialnet. Eventually, I decided to commit fully to PayPal, and that turned out to be a hugely important decision in my overall career arc.

In Silicon Valley, this is the kind of challenge that entrepreneurs and executives face as their networks expand. In an environment of increasing abundance, it’s crucial that you learn to invest your time, your resources, and your capital to greatest effect.

Defining my relationship with Peter and Max in a flexible but clear-cut manner was an early instance of my framework for maximizing collaborative opportunities in a time-crunched world. Over the years, I’ve continued to develop my approach, which essentially mirrors how Silicon Valley creates start-ups.

Specifically, I think in terms of four tiers of potential engagement with a company or any project.

While these different roles help determine how I engage with start-ups, I use them generally too – for projects as well as formal companies.

For example, when I decided to develop and co-teach a course on blitz-scaling for Stanford University, I committed to functioning as a principal for the course of the project. There was no company involved, but in my mind, and in budgeting my time as we developed and then taught the class, I operated as a principal member of the team.


When you commit to functioning as a principal, you essentially say, “I own this, and it’s my responsibility to bring this endeavor to fruition.”  You’re involved on a daily basis. You may have contributed your own assets. You probably have or at least are in the process of recruiting and thus managing employees. You’re responsible for the active management of whatever resources define the entity or project.

Being a principal, in short, is a serious commitment. You deal with all the significant issues that arise, and ultimately you determine the overall path and outcome of the endeavor. If it succeeds, you bask in the glory. If it fails, you own the failure.

So at the end of the day, you can’t just say “Well, I did my best and tried and that’s that.” If you’re a principal, you’re a captain of the ship. And that means it’s your obligation to do every that’s reasonably possible to bring that ship to port.

Of course, the definition of what’s “reasonably possible” changes depending on the scope of the endeavor. If you’re working on a small project, such as hosting a birthday party for a friend of yours, “reasonably possible” could mean working through the weekend. If you’re CEO of a company that has raised $100 million from investors, it means a great deal more. You’re the captain of that ship,  and that means you’re the first person on it and the last person off it, whether it sinks or successfully arrives at port.

Because of the commitment level required, being a principal necessarily means limiting your focus. As my friends Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey are currently demonstrating, you can in fact be a principal at two major companies at once. But it’s an extremely expensive proposition in terms of the time and focus you must invest, and thus very difficult and rare.

If you’re talking about projects rather than companies, your potential capacity increases. For example, on the company level, I have a principal role as a partner at Greylock. And in the course of developing the blitzscaling class at Stanford – I functioned as a principal there too. But that was a project rather than a full-fledged company, and I had other partners functioning as principals too – Greylock’s John Lilly, my LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, and Chris Yeh, who also co-authored The Alliance with me (and Ben Casnocha).

So functioning as a principal on projects rather than companies can expand your capacity. But it shouldn’t expand it too much. Indeed, if you find that you’re always engaged as a principal in four or five different projects, you’re probably not giving at least two of them the fully engaged leadership that success demands in today’s ultra-competitive professional landscape.


As a board member, you engage in a substantive but less immersive fashion than you do as a principal. You’ve committed to providing ongoing strategic governance and assistance to the endeavor. But while your mandate is to help manage resources intelligently, you’re not directly responsible for the project’s outcome in the way that a principal is.

As a key strategic partner to the endeavor’s principal or principals, you must maintain an ongoing picture of the endeavor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – i.e., what’s commonly known as a SWOT analysis.

For example, you must understand where the project is in its development cycle. You have to know how it fits into the overall industry or domain in which it’s situated. To maintain this evolving, three-dimensional image of the endeavor,  you’re probably communicating with the principals on a weekly to monthly basis.

That way, when you’re out in the field, you can function as a key ambassador and intelligence gatherer for the project’s principals. Could the person you’re having lunch with benefit from whatever the project’s greatest strength is? Does that new startup you heard about have complementary resources or assets that could help shore up one of your project’s weaknesses?

At the same time, your role is not only outward-facing. Part of your responsibility involves monitoring and assessing the principal’s performance, and offering productive (and sometimes challenging) feedback.

While you function as a key strategic advisor to the principal, your primary allegiance is to the greater endeavor or organization. You should be doing everything you can to help the principal succeed – except in cases where it’s the principal who is impeding the overall chances of the endeavor’s success. Then, in your role as a board member, you have to make the hard decision of finding a new principal.

Of course, as a board member, your role may vary substantially from endeavor to endeavor. Even in the case of formally appointed boards, this is true, with different companies having different expectations about what level of engagement each  board member provides. It may be that your duties/expectations are fairly limited, such as helping a principal recruit others for a project, or helping to scope out a start-up’s vision and culture.

In less formal scenarios – i.e., when you’re functioning, say, as a “board member” for a colleague’s effort to host a fundraiser for a local nonprofit  – this is even more common.

In either case – formal or informal – it helps to mutually articulate the scope of your ongoing commitment. You don’t have to map out every detail in advance, as commitments and expectations can evolve over time. But you do need clear communication right from the start, and an ongoing emphasis on clearly defined roles.

As a board member, you can participate more broadly than you can as a principal, but there are still limits. Because board member duties can vary widely from endeavor to endeavor, your capacity can vary broadly too. If you’re functioning primarily as a VC partner or investor and being a board member is essentially your full-time gig, you might pursue as many as 10 – 12 board-level engagements at any one time. In contrast, if you’re the founder of an early-stage start-up, you’ll probably want to limit your board-level engagements to no more than one.


A third way to participate in the various opportunities that present themselves is as an investor. Here, whether you’re dealing with a for-profit start-up, a
philanthropic project, or any other endeavor, your role as an investor will likely have a literal component – i.e., you will be contributing money to the endeavor.

And at the very least, you’ll be investing some kind of tangible asset – access to your Rolodex, an agreement to make a series of introductions, a commitment to serve in an informal role as an advisory board member.

Because you have made this investment, you will certainly try to be helpful to the endeavor’s principals however you can. But ultimately your level of commitment will be reactive rather than proactive.

Unlike a board member, you won’t have to maintain a real-time SWOT analysis of the company or project. Nor will you be responsible for the project’s overall success or failure in the way that you are when you’re a principal or a board member.

But if a principal whose project you’ve invested in solicits your advice and assistance, you’ll be committed to offer your assistance on a responsive basis. You may not end up fulfilling the exact request the principal makes. But you are committed to trying to be helpful in some way.


The final tier in my framework is that of “friend.” As a friend, you have a relationship or alliance with one of the endeavor’s principals, but no formal or even ongoing commitment to the project. You might even put money into a project – but you ultimately exist outside the project’s orbit. Your engagement is serendipitous, reactive, and ad hoc.

If you’re having lunch with a principal, and she wants to discuss her project, you do what you can to offer feedback, advice, and whatever other useful counsel you might provide. But your commitment in the project exists only in that moment. When lunch is over, so is your commitment. You might keep thinking about the project, but you have no explicit ongoing obligation or tie to it.


To be a key strategic ally to the people in your network, clarity matters. You should aim to strengthen relationships through proactive engagement. But you should also be clear about what you’re committing to.

Successful collaboration is a key to long-term career success, in Silicon Valley and everywhere else. But the key to successful collaboration is managing your own time well.

That’s why I’ve found this simple framework so useful over the years. When new opportunities arise, it offers an easy way to do a quick reality check. Do you really have time to assume the responsibilities that a principal level of engagement demands? Are you so taken with an idea or a principal that you know you at least want to function as an investor? Are you in agreement with the principals about what the scope of your role will be?

These tiers aren’t binding. You might graduate from investor to board member, depending on how events play out. Conversely, you can go from board member to investor, depending on how events play out over time. But as you evaluate new opportunities, accurately assessing your level of potential engagement is crucial.

The right engagements are ultimately what propel your career. You can’t say “yes” to everything. But if you assess opportunities through these four tiers, you’ll be able to manage your time more effectively – and thus be able to say “yes” when the most promising opportunities arise. After all, you never know when the project a colleague wants some help on might turn out to be the next PayPal.

Reid Hoffman

Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor.

5 Surprisingly Effective Strategies for Dealing With Really Negative People

Most of us understand how toxic it can be to interact with negative people. Their dreary outlook on life can drag us down. And their pessimistic attitudes can, too often, discourage us from giving our best or taking the necessary steps to improve our future success.

Negative people can pull us into their toxic cycle of pessimistic existence by disrupting our lives and creating negative thoughts within us. Read on for five ways to deal with the negative people in your life and prevent their habits from bleeding into your own.

1. Define boundaries.

Perhaps one of the most useful things you can do is to define your space and how much you are going to allow others to influence you. Often, negative people find it easy to encroach on other people by joining in on conversations–whether in person or even through social media–when they aren’t welcome. The most effective way to eliminate as much pessimism as possible is by simply limiting the parts of your life to which negative people have access. Keep your sanity and create boundaries to protect yourself.

2. Pick your battles carefully.

While it’s important, and human, to spend some of your time helping others with their problems, it’s impossible to help them win every battle. Choose whether it’s more important to help your friend figure out why they are so dissatisfied with their current job, or to help him get through his latest breakup. You’ll exhaust yourself trying to fix all of your friend’s problems or daily issues. And it is possible that placing the negative complaints on pause for a few hours–or a couple days–can bring about a resolution without your involvement at all.

3. Surround yourself with warmth.

Find people who make you happy, who infuse your life with positivity–make these positive friends a much bigger part of your life than your negative friends. Being bombarded by a constant stream of negativity can take a toll on even the most easygoing person, so protect yourself from that potential burnout by adding quality time with those who uplift your spirits and encourage you to do great things.

4. Be a catalyst for positivity.

Most negative people don’t even realize how they are coming across. I am sure they often wonder why friends don’t stick around or why success eludes them–which, of course, gives them more to whine about. Create a positive spin on things for your negative friend. Once they have completed their latest complaint session, ask them to share something positive that happened to them that day or week. Or perhaps share some things that you are feeling happy about–even sharing something as small as the pride you feel from arriving to work on time everyday this week. Sharing something positive can help your negative friend open their eyes to their own negativity and, hopefully, help them focus more on the positives in their lives.

5. Find positivity within yourself.

Finally, the most successful tactic of all may be finding positivity within yourself. As hard as it may be, don’t let the negative words or actions of others get to you. Maintain positive energy regardless of what happens–smile in the face of adversity–by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Overcome the negativity from those who try to bring you down by tapping into your very own internal happiness, giving you one more thing to be happy about and thankful for.

March 13, 1884: When Time Began

Daylight Saving Time (United States) 2016 begins at 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 13

March 13, 1884 “Standard Time” takes effect for the railroads, with four time zones across the United States. Standard time will not be official in the U.S. until 1918.

So how did this all come about by actions of the United States railroads? Would have thought it was a law passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President? Would have thought it was carefully considered by the Executive branch: Departments of Homeland Security and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. But neither of them were around in 1884.

The United States was divided into four time zones on November 18, 1883, and jurisdiction for the zones was given to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). All places keep the same time within each time zone. The zones in the United States were intended to represent the mean times of four different meridians (not including daylight saving time):

  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
  2. Central Standard Time (CST).
  3. Mountain Standard Time (MST).
  4. Pacific Standard Time (PST).

A congressional act transferred the ICC’s responsibilities on time zone boundaries to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1967. Today, the United States and its territories observe standard time within nine time zones. The United States’ time zones are defined in the U.S. Code, Title 15, Chapter 6, Subchapter IX – Standard Time. The US law on zones for standard time also states the term Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), referring to it as the time scale maintained through the General Conference of Weights and Measures and interpreted or modified for the United States by the Secretary of Commerce in coordination with the Secretary of the Navy.

DOT is also responsible for the rules governing DST (not all parts of the United States observe daylight saving time). Daylight saving time in many parts of the United States is in line with section 110 of the United States’ Energy Policy Act of 2005, which states that daylight saving time would begin on the second Sunday of March and it would end on first Sunday of November. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 does not alter the rights of the states and territories that choose not to observe daylight saving time.

States and territories in the United States that do not observe daylight saving time include: Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and most of Arizona except the Navajo Nation Community. Some parts of Indiana previously did not observe daylight saving time but the state is now united in observing the schedule despite being split into different time zones.

Plowz & Mowz: Just Like UBER!

Knew it would happen! An “APP-BASED” business like UBER for driveway plowing.

Source: J&R Lawns & Landscapes
J&R Lawns & Landscapes in Syracuse uses new app to order plows from an phone app.

In the winter of 2012, after a major snow blast to Syracuse, New York, Wills Mahoney’s mother got stuck in her driveway. As she sat, she watched several plows go by, but couldn’t get one to her property. And there it was, the inspiration for Plowz & Mowz, an on-demand, residential plowing and mowing company, founded by 33-year-old Mahoney and college friend Andrew Englander.

“We are truly the only on-demand snow plowing app on the market today. You can go with other websites, but their turnaround time is about 48 hours, and they’re going to have to give you an estimate,” claimed Mahoney, whose company now serves 30 markets, including Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Customers download the app, type in their information, get an exact price on a snowplow and then that request is dispatched to drivers who contract with the company. Generally, those drivers are already out on their routes. They can accept or reject the job, depending on distance and schedules.

“It’s very similar to the Uber model,” said Mahoney.

Residential snowplowing is actually a growing business, as harsher storms hit the nation with increased frequency. There are approximately 30,000 residential plowing companies and three times as many who plow commercial properties, like malls and offices.

“The vast majority of the residential market is single contractors. It is highly fragmented,” said Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association, who calls the app a “disruptor.”

“Some of the bigger companies that do this,” he added, “like Brightview, [formerly Rockville, Maryland-based Brickman] they only comprise 3 to 4 percent of market share, and they’re the biggest one out there.”

Jeff DeLine, a Plowz & Mowz provider for three years, said he has seen demand for snowplows surge dramatically.

“Easily hundreds more requests for each event,” said DeLine, owner of J&R Lawns and Landscapes in Syracuse.

DeLine employs about 30 drivers and uses Plowz & Mowz for additional revenue that he said comes without extra hassle.

“It just fills a gap in our current routes,” said DeLine. “We don’t have to gather customer information, we don’t have to gather their billing information, and we don’t have to bill them after the service is completed. All we have to do is show up to the job, plow it and send a picture when it’s completed.”

Last winter, when Syracuse was unusually dry, DeLine dispatched five trucks to Boston, which was seeing record snowfall. He said he made $15,000 on the trip and could not have done it without the app.

“It wouldn’t have been feasible to travel there and do that based on the amount of work that we would have had to do to gain customers there at the drop of a hat,” he said.

While there is no significant competition to Plowz & Mowz yet, there are still challenges to this model. It works for residential, but would need to be much larger scale to serve commercial properties, which require heavy equipment. The model also does away with old-fashioned customer relationships.

“It’s going to be a significant change and more challenging. Before this, people had a route, operators, drivers, they were familiar with the properties in advance. Now they don’t know,” said Tirado. “The property could have steep inclines and declines, sensitive landscaping, where are you going to put the snow? Before, people did on-site inspections. It’s going to be more challenging, but I certainly think people will adapt to it.”

Mahoney said he hasn’t had many issues with customer satisfaction. He notes that drivers have Google Maps, providing a picture of the property, and that customers can upload photos and instructions to their requests. Mahoney claims to have grown his app into a “multimillion-dollar company” in just three years. He said he has help from an angel investor and will be raising more funds soon.

No question, the promise of quick help after a storm is very attractive. With a possibly epic winter storm bearing down on Washington, D.C., where Plowz & Mowz does not yet operate, put a call in to a northern Virginia plow company Thursday to find out about weekend service. After sitting on hold for at least 10 minutes, we were told they could not guarantee a plow before Monday.





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