Salon Series: GAINING ACCESs
On the evening of May 17th, we gathered an intimate group of 35 for an Imprimatur salon about the new economy of access. More than ever, people have access to resources, goods and services and experiences that were previously more difficult to attain. From education to high-end services to one-of-a-kind experiences, this democratization is changing the consumer landscape.
With shifting business models and user expectations, how will this transform the new marketplace? Attendees heard three different perspectives from Matt Brimer, Co-Founder of global educational company General Assembly, Adrian Gradinaru, Founder of boat rental marketplace Sailo and Sam Bodkin, Founder of classical music social network Groupmuse.
The curated list of attendees included leaders from the design, hospitality and tech space. In attendance included Rameet Chawla of Fueled, Pier Fawkes, Editor in Chief and Founder of PSFK, and Suzen Heely Executive Director of Design + Construction of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Born out of years of personal sailing experience, Gradinaru created Sailo, a peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace that connects boat owners, captains and renters. Describing the archaic process of boat rental as a major barrier to entry, Gradinaru wanted to break down the institutional structure and bring accessibility to this fragmented marketplace. Similarly, General Assembly unbundles the traditional education model, giving students opportunities to master new skills without going through the elaborate enrollment process. “Ultimately bringing a new generation of listeners to classic music”, Groupmuse seeks to make time-tested, great masterpieces relevant again. By creating demand through innovative solutions, our speakers gave consumers more flexibility and choice.
The booking of an education course/sailboat/private chamber music performance is a new convenience that makes life more seamless. While these companies have opened channels of access that didn’t exist before, their core demographic is still upper middle class. Attendees challenged our speakers on how to address this issue. Brimer explained the formation of Opportunity Fund, their philanthropic program that provides education, mentorship and career opportunities to underrepresented groups. One of Groupmuse’s core values is human connection and the importance of leaving space for “community members outside their social circle”, something that Bodkin continues to strive for. A quick search on Sailo’s platform shows that their most affordable options run for a few hundred dollars – a huge value for the average white collar New Yorker, but still a true luxury for many. As these platforms grow, we’re interested to how true accessibility unfolds.
IRL Experiences at the core
General Assembly, Groupmuse and Sailo are all accessible through a digital interface, but one of their greatest assets is that at the core, they all lead to in-person experiences. Gradinaru explained the breadth of maritime experiences from corporate meetings to private dates to connecting with individual captains. Brimer emphasized the importance of a “more meaningful way to connect with a group of people going through [professional] transformation” at General Assembly. With a platform to meet and mingle with crowds that normally wouldn’t have crossed paths, connecting disparate groups is a purposeful goal for Groupmuse. As Bodkin pointed out, “We need more opportunities to connect in meet space, not cyber space. We need more mystery not addressed by our Facebook newsfeeds and iPhones.”