Living smack dab in the middle of the tech industry and writing about it every day, it can be easy to forget that many startups and services aren’t well-known (or even understood) in the outside world. Watching comedian and actress Chelsea Handler on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Tuesday reminded me of this.
Handler appeared on the show to plug Chelsea, her new show on Netflix that premieres May 11. As part of the program, Handler said she tried out a variety of jobs, including driving for ride-hailing service Lyft and assembling a customer’s furniture while working for TaskRabbit, a marketplace where customers pay contract workers to do chores for them.
“Lyft, it’s like Uber but not Uber. It’s the other Uber,” said Handler when Fallon asked her to describe Lyft’s service.
The ride-hailing service’s “number two” status, which even Lyft admits, became immediately apparent, despite its popularity some cities like San Francisco and Austin. Handler’s interview also makes for nice context for Lyft’s first national TV commercial, which aired on Monday. The commercial, with its apocalyptic road traffic story line, seems to be just as much about educating the broader U.S. market about ride-hailing services as it is about promoting Lyft’s brand.
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In Handler’s stint as a TaskRabbit “tasker,” as the company calls its contractors, she took on the challenge of building a customer’s furniture. Based on the brief clip played during Fallon’s show, the experience didn’t go very smoothly, with Handler messily opening the furniture packaging and asking her customer if there were any instructions. (There were.)
“I can’t believe stuff like that is happening!” Handler exclaimed. “You just pick an app and some stranger shows up.”
Even crazier might be the fact that the companies that help these strangers work together are currently among the most highly valued in the world. (See Uber’s $68 billion valuation.) But as the industry begins to wake up to the challenges of their business models, the appetite for these services seems to be slowing.
What Uber Did for the Ride-Sharing Market.
This isn’t Handler’s first brush with the tech industry. For a previous exclusive Netflix documentary, she explored Silicon Valley by designing her own mobile app (with the help of an app making agency), and presented the idea to a venture capital firm.
But even then, Handler’s awe at Silicon Valley’s peculiar ways could be felt, amidst her genuine curiosity as she met industry insiders.