Tue 21 Apr 2020

Is there a viable OpenSource Instacart-type software?

Jason Mark Public Seen by 201

So here's my thought. Instacart sucks because all the reasons big money corporations and startups suck. But it's also awesome because it cuts down on the number of people who go to stores, and provides ways for people who are out of work to earn money. What if we could make a new company (FairCart) which works like Instacart and partners with food coops and similar small businesses (possibly as well as large grocery chains) and guarantees to pay employee fair market value, and provide health care. I have a background in how we might start that business from a business point of view, but would need some SOLID technology to make sure everyone gets paid and groceries get delivered, and that delivery people get reviewed fairly so customer service levels stay up there.

I'm still hashing this out but my idea is this would be 50% worker-owned, but I'm open to other ideas on that.

Thoughts? Ideas?


Daniel Harris Tue 21 Apr 2020

I'm wondering why it needs to be a company (or any legal entity) and why it even needs to be a platform. Why not just a protocol? But I'd need to see your requirements to understand why you are making certain choices. Perhaps creating an empire is part of the plan? Sorry don't mean to be nasty. So, what are your requirements. Cheers Daniel


Jason Mark Fri 24 Apr 2020

Good question. Because to do what I want to do (get a better wage and healthcare for Instacart-type workers) it has to be a business and not just a protocol or concept that some geeks kick around... but you're right there does have to be an underlying protocol, which is what I was reaching out in hopes that someone knows of something viable that has been used somewhere in some small capacity (maybe 5,000 deliveries over half a dozen stores?). If there was something like that we could build off of it would give us a HUGE leg up. I'm not personally interested in protocols (I know some people love them which is great), but I'd love to find a few partners who are. I'm not sure what you mean by "empire", but I've been playing Civ 6 lately, so maybe I should send a trader to each store... :)


Graham Tue 21 Apr 2020

There's a couple of cooperative platforms in this space that I'm aware of, probably more. The one I'm most familiar with, indeed I've been working with the founder for several years in order to bring the service to the UK market, and also to set the forward strategy for the operation to be structured as a platform cooperative (giving producers, distributors, and also consumers the opportunity to become members of the cooperative that owns and democratically controls the service). The platform in its current form is in operation in NZ, AUS and the US. It's called Ooooby - from 'Out Of Our Own Back Yards'. You can see the Sydney, Australia operation at https://www.ooooby.org/sydney We don't yet have a online pitch that sets out our stall as a platform co-op - we're working on that as I write, but I think it's fair to say that we are open to offers of collaboration. PM me if interested.

There's also a system called Open Food Network (OFN https://openfoodnetwork.org.uk). Where Ooooby stemmed from a consumer orientation with a strong ethical stance and a pragmatic approach, my take on OFN (and it is just my perspective so Imay be way off beam) is that it is attempting to tackle the same sort of food systems issues but from a different starting point. Whilst this has some benefits I think it also has drawbacks - their consumer-facing offer isn't particularly strong in my view, although I'm aware that they have a pile of funding so they may be addressing that.


Hemi Edwards Tue 21 Apr 2020

The granddaddy of online peer to peer delivery platforms is Buckybox, originally developed a decade ago.



Jason Mark Fri 24 Apr 2020

Thanks. Buckeybox definitely looks interesting, but it does seem to advertise itself as fairly limited. From their site: "Bucky Box works best for food enterprises selling by recurring subscription directly to customers."


Graham Fri 24 Apr 2020

Very long in the tooth, and as far as I'm aware the software has not seen much in the way of TLC for many years. We're aware lots of smaller operators moving away from this product due to its limitations. Might not be the best place to start.


Danyl Strype Mon 18 May 2020

@Jason Mark I'm not familiar with exactly what Instacart offers. If you could give us a link to a more detailed rundown of everything the software would need to do (as well as any nice-to-have extras Instacart doesn't offer), we might have a clearer idea of what existing projects to recommend, or what existing components might be useful in building one.


Jason Mark Mon 18 May 2020

Instacart.com it's a delivery service, which integrates tightly with stores. It has weekly sales, nightly counts, details on member benefits (i.e. coupons for members only), the ability to have devilry people sign up and be verified, etc.


Danyl Strype Mon 1 Jun 2020

Could a P2P trading system like openbazaar.org or publicmarket.io be useful as a replacement for Instacart? Instead of hosting a centralized platform, you could run as a consultancy co-op owned by client/members, which helps traders install the P2P software, set up their digital shopfront, and so on. Since each trader that joins the P2P network increases it's utility value to existing users (the famous "network effect"), co-op members benefit from growing the network, via bringing new client/members into the co-op.

On a separate note, I also suggest checking out GNU taler, a payment system designed to protect anonymity for customers (like cash does in the physical world), while keeping complete transaction records that vendors can integrate with their business accounting software.