Jay Walker isn’t one to think small. He founded Priceline, one of the earliest, most profitable and most disruptive digital companies of the entire internet era. He established a price busting consumer friendly commerce platform, at a time when 99% of us thought that a platform was a place where the speaker could stand.

 

So when Walker says he has identified an entirely new asset class, which he calls “flexibility”, and that it could be worth billions, with a “b”, it is worth taking notes. His newest venture Upside is a tiny step into the shallows of the flexibility economy. It is a model designed to offer flexible pricing with premiums for business travelers, to help align the needs of the company comptroller and the traveler.

“With the advent of big data,” Walker says in the accompanying video for Bold Business, “and the cloud and mobile computing, it suddenly becomes possible for a consumer to see all of the choices they could possibly make and what the value of their flexibility is for every one of those choices.

“It is possible for software to sort the most valuable or the most useful of those choices based on what the consumer says they prefer or what matters most to them.”

“It is possible for software to sort the most valuable or the most useful of those choices based on what the consumer says they prefer or what matters most to them.”

Walker assures us that Upside is just the first step, a trial more or less, as he develops the concepts and the mechanisms to create a flexible economy at every level of the marketplace. He is convinced that the small decisions and price differentials, once unlocked with consumer-friendly algorithms and platforms will be truly revolutionary. This technology can offer consumers more choices, better prices, and help them to optimize the value of hundreds of daily decisions for huge cost savings and benefits.

If Walker is correct, this would indeed be revolutionary, on the order of the industrial, electrical, and internet revolutions. Or perhaps a better way to think of it is as the culmination of these prior revolutions, a grand unification of all three.

Think of it this way, the industrial revolution provided the world with a plethora of things, physical objects in greater abundance than had ever been possible. The electrical revolution made life easier and provided the world with labor saving machines and devices that made the impossible possible. The internet revolution connected the people of the world.

Too many digital choices - consumer economy

Flexibility Revolution Changes Everything

Walker’s flexibility revolution brings all three together, allowing people to shop, travel and work in a manner that is personally optimized. It allows people to connect with the makers and sellers of products, the industrial revolution, through the power of the electrical and internet revolutions.

Optimization is the critical feature. Something as simple as buying a cell phone can be a complex and frustrating task. It is time consuming and difficult to sort through all of the plans and offers, the sales, the specials, the restrictions, the upgrades, the models.

The flexibility revolution would allow anyone input personal preferences into an algorithm program, that would then sort through and weigh all of those choices, presenting the best options.

This type of platform would save an incredible amount of time, and a significant amount of money. The AI tools to get the flexibility revolution under way exist right now, consisting initially of search and algorithmic numbers crunching. It’s a new way of approaching the problem of choice, and using the power of the internet and networks to optimize choices.

It must be clarified, before anyone gets the wrong idea, the flexibility revolution isn’t just a newer fancier search engine. It is a profound rethinking of the way we interact with vendors and services both on and off the internet. Flexibility is more about how choices and decisions are made, than how information is discovered and sorted. The latter is search. The former is highly personalized and can be altered as needs, wants, and circumstances change.

The flexibility revolution is based on personalized optimization, providing the means for each and every person to sort through vast databanks of information to find and optimize choices and performance. It may well be extraordinary and transformative, leading to greater efficiencies, greater value in myriad transactions, and truly optimized benefits.

 

Jay Walker is the Founder of Priceline.com, Upside.com, and Synapse Group, an entrepreneur and chairman of Walker Digital, and a curator of TEDMED.  Walker’s privately held research and development lab focuses on using digital networks to create new business systems. Walker was named “Most Influential New Business Strategist” by the Industry Standard in 1999, and in 2009, he was given the “Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year” at Cornell University’s Entrepreneurship Program.

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