Did you know that across the world, there are around one million Uber callouts every hour? Or that a simple chatbot tool amassed nearly one million users just five days after its launch?
Impressive figures: the kind that every tech startup dreams about. But what is the secret of their success? How did these unicorns manage to become so popular to such an extent?
As these incredible stats show, put simply, they fulfilled a need. They saw a gap in the market and set about creating and developing a service to make our lives easier. In other words, they took a simple concept and made it indispensable.
Certain technologies have become such intrinsic and essential parts of our everyday lives –once tried, we can’t imagine living or working without them.
Here, we look into the meteoric rise of four companies and how they have used technology to change how we work and play.
Ride-sharing is a simple concept, but it has completely transformed modern transportation across the globe. In 2009, inspired by a failed attempt to hail a cab in a Paris blizzard, Uber’s founders developed a mobile-based app that allowed customers to order a cab within minutes – from anywhere, at any time of the day or night.
The immense success of Uber comes down to satisfying a specific need that was not being met by traditional taxis and public transportation services: a safe, quick and truly on-demand transport service.
Today Uber operates in over 70 countries and 10,000 cities across the world. In Q4 of 2022, Uber achieved a record-breaking 2 billion trips in a single quarter. That’s an average of nearly one million trips per hour!
By focusing solely on the customer’s needs, Uber has turned the ride-sharing market into a multibillion-dollar industry.
And it’s not just customers who are benefitting. Uber has become a main driver in the rise of the gig economy. Without owning a single car, Uber Technologies has enabled 5.4 million independent drivers and couriers worldwide to earn through its services.
Uber’s influence and success has also extended to the Middle East. In January 2020, Uber acquired the Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem for $USD3.1 billion, making it the biggest-ever tech transaction in the Middle East region.
In its own words, Careem has simplified life for over 50 million customers and created opportunities for over 2.5 million drivers – known as ‘Captains’ – in 80 cities and 10 countries across the Middle East.
The acquisition has allowed Careem to remain regionally independent while scaling up in the development of a host of essential daily services, from ride-sharing and food deliveries to digital payments and corporate travel services – all under one easy-to-use ‘super app’.
But it’s not just for convenience’s sake that Mobility technologies are soaring in popularity. The Uber-Careem partnership is helping to drive social change across the whole MENA region – for example, offering greater opportunities for women to participate in the workforce, and contributing to the growth of digital adoption to simplify and improve lives across the region.
It’s barely a few months old, but the penetration rate of the language-processing model ChatGPT is nothing short of phenomenal.
The human-like AI chat tool, released in November 2022, amassed one million users in just five days. By January, this figure had soared to over 100 million users, making the chatbot the fastest-growing consumer application ever. To put it into context, it took TikTok nine months and Instagram more than two years to reach 100 million users.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Why is there such an intense and unprecedented demand for a simple language app?
A first-of-its-kind, ChatGPT is the most powerful language processing tool ever created. What makes it unique is its ability to respond like a human. What’s more, it can convert ‘tech-speech’ into a simplified language that ordinary people understand.
The app contains a vast amount of data and can understand context. This gives it the ability to perform tasks such as text generation and language translation, with a more natural output that humans can relate to.
ChatGPT is a potential game-changer for businesses. For example, it could be used in:
- Customer service – providing more accurate and relatable responses to customer queries would improve customer satisfaction and experience.
- Healthcare – analysing medical records would enable doctors to give a more accurate and quicker diagnosis.
- Law – an accurate analysis of legal documents could help streamline legal proceedings.
- Digital marketing – to compile research, draft content and write computer code.
ChatGPT has limitations – for example, it can only refer to the data it holds, and it can’t replace human creativity skills. But it can go a long way to augmenting workflow processes by automating repetitive tasks and providing engaging interactions with customers and workers.
What Uber has done for the gig economy, Zoom has done for remote working.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, strict lockdown restrictions forced millions across the globe to stay at home. Physical interaction ground to a halt in an unprecedented move to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The impact on people’s lives and livelihoods was unlike anything humanity had experienced before.
But thanks to video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, families, friends, students and businesses were able to remain connected through the toughest times in modern history.
As the pandemic spread, forcing businesses to work remotely, Zoom became a household name overnight. By April 2020, the number of people engaging in daily virtual meetings grew an astonishing 30 times, from 10 million at the end of 2019 to more than 300 million.
In the UAE, Zoom’s user base grew by 900% to one million within a month of the government lifting its VoIP platform ban in March 2020.
As the pandemic lockdowns ended and restrictions gradually eased, many organisations began to see the benefits of hybrid/remote working. At the end of 2020, Zoom conducted a survey, the results of which supported the continuing use of the video communications platform in the UAE post-COVID:
- 83% of respondents agreed that video communications apps continued to be important for them post-COVID.
- 71% supported the continuing use of Zoom in the future.
- 66% agreed that the continued use of video communications would help the economy and innovation.
- 69% of Emirate respondents expected to work from home, either full-time or hybrid, going forward.
The continuing popularity of Zoom has highlighted the company’s support for the UAE’s 2021 Vision to become a ‘Digital Nation’. While the pandemic has changed our working habits, Zoom has enhanced communication methods, creating opportunities for hybrid and fully remote working teams as well as e-learning development.
Keep it simple
So, what can these tech giants teach ambitious startups looking for a unicorn opportunity?
In all the above cases, companies started out by identifying a paint point – nothing complex, just a simple need: to get from a to b, whenever, wherever; to break down barriers in language comprehension; to connect with others without being physically present.
The next step was to create a simple product or service that was fast, convenient, easy-to-use and, eventually, indispensable.
Not only do these products and services make life simpler – they have transformed how many of us now live and work. And as the incredible market penetration stats show, we are becoming increasingly keen for advances in technology that make our work and home lives easier.