In a world where the lines between the digital and the physical are blurry and fluid, constantly crossing and morphing and mashing up into a new version of reality, there are few more perfect marriages of our online and offline lives than in one growing phenomenon: delivery. Order it online. It shows up where you are. Exactly how you want it.
We use apps to order groceries, car rides, temporary apartments, declarations of love, personal assistants, valets, private chefs. And now, booze!
The Klink alcohol delivery app let’s you order alcohol to your doorstep by touching a button on your phone or your computer. The website sums up the process in four steps:
1) Tell us where you are.
2) Tell us what you want.
3) Pay. No markups.
4) Answer your door.
Klink’s business model contains many of the hallmarks of other startups in the sharing economy, in that it disrupts a market that was difficult or unpleasant to navigate and replaces it with services that are more user-friendly, affordable, customized and convenient.
If you did not live in New York City, taxicabs were unpleasant. But along came Uber. Renting a living space for short amounts of time was stressful, if not impossible, especially in a foreign city. Then, along came Airbnb. There are always exceptions, but I will not miss wandering around the nameless corner liquor store, hopelessly trying to decipher the organizational scheme and keeping fingers crossed that they carry the products I want.
When I sat down to talk with two of Klink’s founders, Jeffrey Nadel and Craig Bolz, they ardently expressed that creating an entire experience of celebration is a core component of their business model, which they are looking to expand following a new partnership with Bud Light.
Rebranded and expanded in June 2014, Klink demonstrates a new age of maturity in the sharing economy. It retains the user-centric hacker spirit, but complies stringently with existing laws and regulations. It does not process your payments. It does not sell or deliver alcohol. All of the regulated, technical aspects of alcohol sales are left to licensed liquor retailers. The service focuses on one thing that the sharing economy typically does really well: it connects buyers and sellers through an easy-to-use app.
“Sharing economy” is one of those blanket terms that encompasses a wide range of businesses and industries, each of which comes with its own unique model and legal framework. Broadly speaking, it describes a business that uses a digital platform to more efficiently distribute resources by directly syncing suppliers and customers. Sometimes, a sharing economy service skirts restrictive regulations or makes them obsolete. In other cases, it’s just a new way of performing an old service. There is very little actual “sharing” involved, unless you count the mints in the back seat of your Uber ride.
It is surprising that Klink has found a legal niche in one of the most tightly regulated markets in our economy, with laws regarding a whole range of operations, from Sunday sales to retail establishments that vary state by state and sometimes county by county. After all, illegally transporting alcohol across state lines is one of only two ways that a private citizen can violate the U.S. Constitution. The other is by enslaving someone.
Klink has navigated the complexities of the regulatory system as it expands to new states, having already launched in Florida, Michigan and the District of Columbia. As it’s expanded, Klink has discovered some surprising surprising allies. The vocal non-profit MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is supportive of alcohol delivery and ridesharing services that keep those who imbibe off the roads. The new Uber/MADD partnership recently released a poll showing that 80 percent of respondents are less likely to drive after drinking due to ride-sharing apps. DUI levels are down, drunk-driving crashes are on the decline, and other statistics reveal a strong correlation between safer driving practices and the availability of ridesharing services.
There are those who see disruptive technologies as changing our mode of existence in potentially harmful ways. It’s a fine line between laziness and efficiency, instant gratification and innovation. It’s a line I will do a little jig on while drinking a beer. Cheers!