The term “collaborative consumption” was inked a few years back (see the TED video below) and has since led a sharing revolution through technology, which makes 10000-year-old human habit “sharing” easy and fun. The “sharing” mechanism is “what is mine is yours”. In fact, it really is “what is mine is what you can ‘rent’ or ‘borrow’”. It involves consuming, collaborative mechanism, trust, and trading.
Ever since using airbnb and made bunch of friends and money, I’ve been thinking: Not all sharing experiences are created equal. While lots of technology startups simply enable sharing transactions, others are creating meaningful human relations while sharing: I think “buddy” collaborative consumption says it right.
Mark my words on it: only those who can create human relationships while sharing are built to last, and loved by people.
Airbnb and zimride are just two such examples of “buddy” collaborative consumption.
The key characteristic for a “buddy” collaborative consumption is “time together”. When a group of people are brought together by airbnb or zimride to share resource, they spent a lot time together. Many of my airbnb guests become my dear friends and each other’s resource, because we spent a lot of time together talking, sharing. Zimride literally put together people in one moving car for hours if not days, imagine how many jokes they are telling each!
On the contrary, lots of other sharing enablers simply provide a trading mechanism.
If we can create a platform not only enabling age old sharing mechanism, but also bring people to spend time together while sharing, it’s more likely to be loved by our users.
Ever since airbnb became such a hit, there have been countless startups trying to engineer the “airbnb-like” success in areas other than travel/lodging business, as the “complete list of airbnb like startups in sharing economy” shows.
Some are greeted with success, others not so much. Let’s take a quick deep dive to discover the most critical elements leading to the success, and how we can purposefully look for and design such success.
1st of all, Identify things that people are already doing with some degree of wasted resource
This is the single most important element in our effort of creating successful sharing economy. This must be well thought out before we even attempt to build anything. Finding this “sweet spot” is half of the success. For airbnb’s host: it’s simply “having a place to live”. People already either own or rent a place, and most of the time, our places are not occupied fully, creating some degree of wasted space. For traveler: it’s the hotel lodging, we are already traveling and lodging, but hotel can get expensive, leading to waste of monetary resource for traveler, to say the least.
A recent techcrunch Interview with Zimride cofounder John Zimmer further emphasize the finding of such sweet spot: 80% of “seats” on our highway are empty. WOW! People are already driving on the highway from point A to point B, with some degree of waste: empty seats meant overpaid gas. I mostly drive alone between places and have always been bitching about the fact that I have to drive my 4 wheels on a full tank of gas and 3 empty seats. I guess I am not alone. Zimride is selling 6000 seats between San Francisco and LA each month, equalling to 100 flights, saving people at least $100 for each round trip – that is $600k saved alone at such an early stage of zimride.
@7x7SF has a great article about the sharing economy, contributed by @shareable (shareable.net) cofounder Neal Gorenflo and the author of the mesh Lisa Gansky, claiming whats sexy about sharing is because “Unused value equals waste”, and sharing provides the opportunity to identify waste and convert it to value. I wholeheartedly agree.
Depending on the frequency of people’s incumbent “behavior”, such as airbnb’s having our own place and need to travel, zimride’s mid/long distance highway driving, the scale of the “sharing” economy can be different. Airbnb targeted human behavior is inherently more “frequent” than zimride, so it will be hard for zimride to reach airbnb’s scale.
Take adventurous travel industry as an example: my list shows many startups attempting the “travel experiences”. Vayable is my favorite one with beautiful design, elegant approach. Granted, every human being on earth would LOVE to travel to somewhere exotic and experience something new, arguably, vayable and the likes could be tapping on a HUGE market. But, fantasy isn’t reality. Perception often is closer to reality. In reality, what is there in “travel experience” field the “things that people are already doing with some degree of wasted resource” that is critical to creating insanely successful sharing economy, other than logistic needs? We can argue that everyone has “hometown” and favorite places, and their knowledge and experiences with these places are unique and can be pleasantly shared with other human beings. And not sharing that experience IS a waste of resource and we can convert that experience to value, which is whats sexy about sharing economy.
2ndly I think there is another element of being “chore like” in those things that people do with waste, for a sharing economy to truly reach economy of scale. Airbnb and zimride are not only “sexy”, they are also killing a market pain. They are more of “pain killer” than vitamine. They have potential to become necessity. Adventurous travel industry lack the “pain” and the “chore” needed for people to truly, desperately seek out alternatives, hence it’s harder to reach the ultimate success of airbnb and zimride.
Finally, the 3rd element is creating meaningful human interactions. large and small, sharable economy startups succeed in creating more interesting relationships among people in addition to solve “logistic needs” they set out to do. These solutions make us more social, happier through peer to peer, face to face, real world interactions.
What does it mean to us entrepreneurs? Go look for the pain in what people already be doing with waste, then imagine a solution to convert it to value, then go ahead build a product to amplify the value through saved resource and happier human interactions.
I say complete, you say comprehensive. Either way, let’s have a look at all the startups in the “sharing economy”, which has a newly minted term “collaborative consumption”.
1. threadflip.com: peer to peer buying/selling women’s fashion stuff, started by a few causes.org alumni.
2. netcycler.com: let you swap old things for items you really want, in europe only
3. minuteBox.com: a social marketplace for real-time advice that helps users to buy and sell expert advice via multi-media chat on multiple social platforms
4. MaestroMarket.com: is a talent marketplace where you can find and connect with influential and exceptionally skilled people
5. theamazings.com: supports retirees to package their passions or skills into activities to share with the rest of the world
Classic sharing sites
gumroad.com: airbnb for selling stuff you make/have
Skillshare.com: airbnb for teaching
localharvest.org: nearby community supported agriculture farms (CSAs), offering the public farm “shares”, usually in the form of boxes of vegetables.
Any airbnb for nannies?
Scienceexchange.com: airbnb for scientific research, it allows scientists to outsource elements of their lab work (fact: phds outsize faculty positions by a factor of 10)
Getaround.com, relayride.com, spride.com, whipcar.com: airbnb for personal vehicle rental
uber.com: airbnb for taxi service
Taskrabbit.com, Exec (iphone app), airbnb for errand hirings
rover.com; Dogvacay.com, airbnb for dogs lovers/owners
spinlister.com, airbnb for bike lovers
publicbikes.com, airbnb for bikes
42floors.com, airbnb for office space
YourMechanic, upcoming service, airbnb for car repairing
zimride.com, airbnb for ride share
snapgoods.com: airbnb for stuff u want to borrow or rent
loosecubes.com: airbnb for office space
shareddesks.net: airbnb for working space
eventup.com: airbnb for event venues
shorttermhousing.com: airbnb for short term vacation housing (sounds more like high end copy cat of airbnb)
fun2rent.com: airbnb for vehicle rental (cars, bikes, boats etc.)
thredup.com: airbnb for like-new cloth rental, I heard they started with baby cloth rental.
uk.zopa.com: peer to peer microlending
toolspinner.com: an airbnb for tools
rentstuff.com: an airbnb for “stuff” rental
neighborgoods.net: airbnb for your stuff rental with your friends
us.zilok.com: rent anything online
snapgoods.com: snap up stuff as it sounds like
rentalic.com: peer to peer rent anything
Travel seems to be filled with airbnb types:
tripping.com: kayak for airbnb style traveling
Gidsy.com is the biggest “activities organized by real people” site.
guidehop.com: airbnb for local tour/activity guide, associated with ex-NFL star Darren Goodson
carnaryhop.com: airbnb for travel hop, associated with Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg
uniiverse.com: sharing real world activities
vayable.com: one of the first “airbnb for travel experiences” that I knew of.
bartercard.com: cashless exchange among people
So is parking space sharing
Parkme (mobile app) (cofounded by William Clay “Bill” Ford Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford (and Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company)
Parkingwhiz.com (old school, launched in 2006)
Ride sharing has ton of interesting entries, Quora has in depth detail on this
wheelz.com: on campus car sharing with hardware gear, it’s started from Stanford campus in 2011; it’s similar to getaround but more niche play. They just got $14 million funding.
European ride share sites:
covoiturage.fr (french site, pretty big traffic)
crashpadder.com, airbnb competitor in UK, just acquired by airbnb
Wimdu.com, airbnb copycat in europe
Airizu.com, Chinese copycat partially produced by wimdu guys
Trustcloud.com tries to “consolidate” your sharing credit in one place to make your reputation mobile across the web. Great idea.