The consequences of scale

Consider three recent examples of the unintended consequences of scale:

  1. Thousands of unsafe products are being listed on Amazon.

  2. Airbnb is accelerating over-tourism, as rental properties are bought up by investors.

  3. Food delivery apps are creating “ghost kitchens”: restaurants that exist only online.

All of these situations are predictable and preventable.

Amazon could enact more quality controls, but it doesn’t want to: it’s profitable for shoppers to consider the little “Prime” check mark as its own form of quality control.

Airbnb could have stuck to their original vision of a distributed BnB network, and not allowed properties to be listed where no one actually lived.

Food delivery apps could enact barriers to entry for restaurants with no physical locations. (Though out of all these examples, this is arguably the most innocuous, even with the pressure it puts on smaller eateries to compete.)

Something Anil Dash said once has always stuck with me: most entrepreneurs are so worried about what will happen if their product fails, they never stop to consider the consequences of success. I think it’s actually a willful ignorance. It’s easier to get to scale and success, and then claim impotence about any problems created along the way.