I spent the weekend in New York visiting one of my best friends for his 30th birthday. As I hung out with 20-to-30-something New Yorkers, I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting how differently they live from Atlantans like me. As I sat on the flight back to Atlanta, I captured some observations on life in the Big City, specifically in the areas of housing and transportation, and how these differences lead to variations of problems that people face and the solutions that are developed as a result.
Differences in Housing
Housing is at such a high premium that New Yorkers are so accustomed to living in tighter spaces.
For example, my best friend and his wife live in an 700 sq ft apartment in the Upper East side of Manhattan. Their rent is almost double my mortgage for almost half the square footage of my house in Atlanta (note: I live in-town about 10 minutes from downtown Atlanta). While I considered their apartment small for Atlanta, other city dwellers were in awe at the size of their apartment in such a fantastic location.
It’s apparent that finding an apartment is much harder problem in New York than in Atlanta. As a result, I can imagine that a real estate app that enables people to easily find and rent apartments from landlords, subleases and roommates would go viral in New York while eliciting a much more tepid response here in Atlanta.
Differences in Transportation
While the housing market is ridiculous in New York, they do car-less transportation much better than in Atlanta. In New York, the poor roads, cost / scarcity of parking, maintenance, and the abundance of cheap alternate transportation services make owning a car in the city a very expensive liability. For most people, these costs outweigh the benefits / utility of a car.
In Atlanta, the immense sprawl of the city coupled with the limitations of public transportation make owning a car a borderline necessity.
The differences in transportation lead to variations on the same problem. For example, smartphone users everywhere live their life between phone charges. Atlantans spend more time in their car on average, so I posit that the average Atlantan is more likely to own a car charger than a NYC denizen. Conversely, the New Yorker is more likely to carry a phone charger in their purse or bookbag in order to charge their phones while they are out in the city. I noticed a number of people taking advantage of outlets in restaurants and bars in NYC to grab a quick charge. This is extremely rare in Atlanta.
I’m willing to bet that a phone case with a built-in extra battery would be more attractive to everyday New Yorkers than Atlantans.
Some thoughts about what all these differences mean:
- Difference in setting leads to variations in problems and marketing conditions that can end up producing different solutions.
- A solution in one market can have a different impact or serve a different customer in another market. If you’ve developed a solution that doesn’t seem applicable in one market, it could be viable in a different setting for an unexpected reason.
- Although we may live under different conditions, we still strive to reach the elusive / illusionary “American Dream.” Things like owning a home and building a prosperous future for your family are important no matter where you live.
This experience (re-)opened my mind to the distinct problems that people face depending on their setting. Furthermore, it reaffirmed my belief that traveling and meeting new people is one of the best ways to find new problems worth solving.
Have you noticed differences in problems when traveling? What are they? What solutions did you see or come up with to address them?