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AP Photo/Mike Groll

"We've got a company that offers an on-demand app for snowplows." ― Peter Pham, co-founder of tech incubator Science Inc. (Dollar Shave Club, DogVacay).
"That makes no sense Peter. Snowplowing isn't a consistent business. And you live in LA." ― me.

And with that I was introduced to Plowz and Mowz, the Science-backed company that has around 1,500 plows on hand today in blizzard-affected areas. Its co-founders, Andrew Englander and William Mahoney, spent some time on the phone, explaining why my gut rejection was unfounded:

The genesis: Mahoney is from Syracuse, and the idea came to him when he couldn't find anyone to plow his mother's long driveway. "I would call plow operators, but no one picks up the phone once it begins snowing. So I'd shovel, and watch the plows drive by and think that they were missing out on an opportunity to make extra money."

The synergy: The co-founders recognized that most residential snowplow operators work as landscapers in the warmer months, so plowing becomes lead generation for mowing which becomes lead generation for lawn-mowing or leaf blowing.

The opportunity: Use technology to optimize existing coverage routes. "We use a live-tracking GPS so that drivers can see other jobs that are already on, or close enough to, their way to the next job. These jobs can be done in as little as six minutes, so it's incremental income," Englander says. "For users, this eliminates the need to sign seasonal contracts. They can also put in notes about when they need a plow by, like if it's a doctor who needs to be on the road by 6am. Lawn-mowing works the same way, although the timing is a bit more flexible ― such as today in the morning or tomorrow in the afternoon. The pricing is competitive, and people get a picture of the completed job within the app once it's done, which is useful, for example, if you're on vacation and just need a one-time mow."

Numbers: The company said last month that it was approaching 100,000 paid transactions, and that it has raised $1.5 million in VC funding. It is unprofitable, but the co-founders say they have had a few break-even months. Overall they have over 3,000 landscape companies signed up, many of which have multiple crews.

Go deeper

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.