The Food Truck Phenomenon – or, what animal behavior tells us about crowdfunding

Shermin de Silva

Note from Jai: Dr. Shermin de Silva is an elephant researcher and she has a project in the #SciFund Challenge (check out Help Elephants & People in Sri Lanka). She has a doctorate in biology from the University of Pennsylvania and she is the founder of  the Elephant Forest and Environment Conservation Trust.

During my six years in grad school slaving over grants and statistics, I avoided starvation thanks to the lunch trucks hovering around West Philly.  They sell everything from vegan chili to doner kebabs, rescuing hundreds from this predicament each day. I used to be puzzled at why there were TWO Mexican trucks competing side by side.  Everyone seemed to know which one was better –you could tell from the lengths of the lines.  Wouldn’t the other want to move off to some remote corner and claim its poor victims all to itself?  In stark contrast to this was the strategy of the ever-elusive wandering cupcake truck – a beast that was seldom spotted, brightening up random corners on each day.  Well, you couldn’t count on a cupcake for desert, but you could always count on the burritos.