October 3, 2023

Many of us are interested in wonders that scream “future” like flying cars. But sometimes the best inventions are more about brainpower than technical magic. Let me give a few examples to appreciate the ingenuity of boring things.

Take the Apple supply chain and roof trusses, for example.

I was recently introduced to an online grocery delivery company in New Jersey called Misfits Market.Many companies have struggle and cost And the complexity that brings us bananas or Doritos at our command. Misfits knows this.

The company’s answer to its history of delivery failures is to think small. It tries to save pennies and remove tiny inefficiencies that can be the difference between failure and success.

Here are a few examples of its small innovations: Stores and delivery services tend to only sell salmon in the middle chunks. Misfits buys and sells other cuts that are equally delicious at a discount. Abhi Ramesh, CEO of Misfits, also excitedly told me that some steps were skipped in the long chain of apple farmers, packers and distributors. Trimming a middleman or two can save time and money.

“Boring problems are the most worthwhile solutions,” Ramesh told me. This person speaks my language. He said it would be a competitive advantage for a company to do a little better at things that are difficult, tedious and expensive.

and other food companies take a similar approach, and do not know whether the company will succeed. But Misfits is an example of a tech company that knows an industry very well and believes it can slightly improve the established way of doing things. That’s what technological progress usually looks like: a novel but perhaps not flashy twist on what happened before.

Roy Bahat, an investor in young tech companies at Bloomberg Beta, used the “hot plug” Refers to a startup that thinks about the big picture by tinkering with the status quo. He gave me examples like Flexport, which is trying to simplify the steps involved in shipping a cargo crate by sea or air, and Newfront, which is trying to do something similar for insurance brokers. (Bloomberg Beta is an investor in Newfront.)

One characteristic of these companies, Bahat said, is that they don’t target major changes, such as Warby Parker did with glasses. The change could be scary or threatening, especially for customers in large industries such as freight or insurance, he said. Instead, the hot-swap startup promises something familiar but better.

This doesn’t always look like WOW, but sometimes it does. Dan Patt, an aerospace engineer, I recently talked about drone package delivery, told me that a construction company near Boise, Idaho uses a cool thing – robots! – Improved snooze festival.

The company, design house, sale large machine Automate some of the steps of building a house or apartment building, including roof trusses, with a robotic arm.

I had to google what those were. They are triangular pieces of wood assembled together to form the skeleton of the roof. House of Design sales and marketing director Michael Lindley told me that roof trusses are designed differently, and putting them together is a relatively repetitive and laborious job.

House of Design promises its systems are compatible with popular building industry design software and produce trusses faster with fewer people. The Design House has technical smarts, but the difference is the creativity in the manufacturing process, Pat said.

My colleague Conor Dougherty has written about the ebb and flow of excitement around automating residential construction. Katerra, a well-known tech startup, After closing last year It tried to simplify every step of construction, including making the bulbs in-house.

A history of failure shows their hubris Believe You can reimagine a big industry, whether it’s real estate or groceries. There may be a reason for the established way of doing things. In addition, inertia is strong, the status quo is often good, and smart technologies cannot solve structural problems.

But it’s useful to remind yourself what an invention is. It’s not always a significantly different driverless taxi or a new smartphone than before. Often it takes a product or process that we know about and then slowly makes it simpler or cheaper.

  • Amazon is trying healthcare again. Amazon said it would buy One Medical, which operates primary care clinics in the U.S., and Amazon watchers have predicted for years that the company will transform healthcare, including a 2018 acquisition of an online pharmacy chain and a (now closed) joint venture that shakes up healthcare for employees health benefits. Amazon isn’t changing healthcare.

  • “My misunderstanding of Facebook.” Farhad Manjoo, an opinion columnist for The New York Times, told everyone to join Facebook in 2009. He reflected on his regrets, including not considering the ubiquitous impact of Facebook.

    Related: Facebook is tweaking its app to be more like TikTok, my colleague Mike Isaac reports.

  • Which computer should you buy for your child? Kimber Streams from Wirecutter, The Times’ product recommendation service, provides school-aged and college students with tips on repurposing old computers, buying used computers, and choosing new models.

Hello Moshu from Snacka red panda at the Oregon Zoo.

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