They Are Not Tech Companies

I was listening to a podcast lately and they were talking about a tech startup, Wevorce, which disrupts the divorce market:

A system that works by attracting couples to the service, collecting data on them through an initial survey, and using their results to classify each person as a particular divorce “archetype.”

Then, the Wevorce team of counselors, family planners, and lawyers steps in. They use their research, data, and training to mediate at predictable moments of tension — a processing system kind of like TurboTax or H&R Block. 

How is that a tech company? What is the tech here? Is filling an online survey considered “using technology”? To me, that is a law company. A law startup. Not a tech start up. I fill a survey form when I visit a physical therapist for the first time. If that form is done online and they have an algorithm to analyze my profile to recommend the best therapist and treatment plan, is the hospital considered a tech company? Of course not.

To me, tech companies are those who advance the technologies and make innovations in technology. If a company makes innovation in another trade, using the help from the latest technologies, it’s not a tech company. For example, Blue Apron is not a tech company. They are a meal kit company. It is still a great startup, a great business innovation. I am a customer and I like it.  

For the same reason, Instacart, of which I am a customer too, is not a tech company either. They do provide a new experience of buying groceries. But at the end of the day, they are a grocery store. An online grocery store. Putting a storefront online and providing an app for customers to place order doesn’t make it a tech company. ToysRUs sells toys online, but no one calls ToysRUs a tech company. 

They are not tech companies also because the technology is not the key ingredient to found those companies and make them successful businesses. A tech person (like me) don’t have know-how in those business sectors. Instacart? Maybe OK. But definitely not Wevorce or Blue Apron. Wevorce was founded by a family lawyer and Blue Apron was started by a chef and a VC. 

In these cases, technology (mobile, data, etc.) is more like the enabler and catalyst. Technology can give these companies an edge over the disruptees in the trade. But if they don’t get the core of their trade right, technology won’t matter. If the spinach in Blue Apron’s big box had already wilted when it arrives my door steps, if they recipes tasted no much difference than average family meals, they would not have been successful. 

Don’t take me wrong. Instacart and Blue Apron are still awesome business innovations. Just don’t call them tech companies any more.

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