Everyone gets a piece of the pie in a shared economy business. Think of Uber and Airbnb, everybody seems to win.
Companies can charge for their service, connecting you with a stranger, and then you pay the person they connected you with.
David Rogers, author of The Digital Transformation Playbook and a Columbia Business school faculty member, spoke on shared business.
“The word sharing is a bit misleading. Sharing would imply that the good is held collectively, like a public park, or that customers are sharing their goods and services freely, like bringing food to a potluck dinner, but, in fact, most of these new-economy businesses involve commercial transactions. You’re almost always talking about a rental, resell, or freelance exchange.”
Rogers suggests we should call it a platform economy because “it brings together different kinds of customers — like homeowners and travelers — who exchange value with each other.” We could even call it a trust economy.
There is fundamental level of trust that is rising between consumers and these kinds of services. TaskRabbit, for example, launched in 2008 and helps people get extra chores done. From assembling IKEA furniture, to picking up groceries, TaskRabbit allows you to outsource just about any chore.
There used to be a time when people wouldn’t trust putting their credit card on the internet and now it feels normal to snap a picture of it and have someone rake your yard by the end of the day.
Legally, shared economy services like Airbnb raise some questions. For example: Should Airbnb pay a hotel tax? Raymond Martz, CFO of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, a hotel real estate investment trust (REIT), explains,
“You now have professional Airbnb hosts buying up buildings and operating them as hotels.”
Using Airbnb bypasses a renters obligation to abide by health and safety regulations.
Since the employees of these services operate on a “gig by gig” basis, employers bypass health care, disability insurance, and standardize wages.
It seems again that if there is trust between the employer and employee, everyone seems to overlook the risks, or possible illegalities.
Rating users through applications builds this trust and lets the company that operates through the app to act like an honest middleman.
Think of when a friend tries to set you up with a date, for the most part, you just take their word for it when going on that first date. After that, it’s up to you to continue seeing that person. Coworking spaces is another way to see just how large this trust/shared economy is growing.
Bathrooms and bedrooms are considered intimate spaces. Offices on the other hand have just enough of a public element that people aren’t bothered by sharing them.
Neelam Brar, founder of District CoWork, a coworking space in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood geared toward entrepreneurs explains,
“It’s easy to think you’re being productive at home, but when you’re around other people and you can soundboard ideas from time to time, that actually keeps you alert and moving to another goal”.
The networking benefits alone make a shared work environment worth a try. A shared economy isn’t going to disappear overnight.
We will surely see more and more services that act as a middleman to bridge together strangers with everyone’s interest in mind.