The mania over ride-sharing and delivery companies has at times been absurd
IN THE REAL WORLD a flywheel is a mechanical contraption that stores rotational energy. In Silicon Valley it has come to mean something else: a perpetual-motion business that not only runs forever but is self-reinforcing. Thanks to powerful network effects, the theory goes, a digital platform becomes more attractive as it draws in more users, which makes it even more attractive and so on. The end state is a venture that has gathered enough energy to self-levitate and throw off tons of cash.
The payout on one of the most richly-funded bets of the past decade or so revolves around whether ride-sharing and delivery firms—which once were part of something known as the “sharing economy” but are better described as the “flywheel economy”—can actually ever live up to their heady promise.