Another big movement that has been made possible thanks to the web is that of the ‘sharing economy’. This is another concept that threatens to transform the way we interact with one another – and that specifically might change the shape of the global economy.
In many ways, the sharing economy is looking to ‘reset’ the economy to a time before money. No doubt, money evolved as a natural progression from trade. Back in our evolutionary prehistory, we would not have had bank notes, coins or credit cards. Instead, if you wanted something, you needed to have something else that you could offer to trade for it.
Need someone to cut your hair?
Then you might offer to mow their lawn in exchange.
Want to eat some nice steak? Then perhaps you ought to trade it for the interesting looking stone you found…
Money in theory is simply intended to facilitate this kind of trade by acting as a sort of ‘place holder’. This way, you can give your audience something that represents labor rather than having to do the labor right then and there. It also means that you can trade with more people – in case someone doesn’t have anything thatyou need.But money has created problems as we know, such as great inequality and a whole lot of stress.
What if we went back to a time where we could trade goods and services? Thanks to the web, this is now far more practical because we have the means to partake in a global market. You can almost always find someone who has the thing you want and who is looking for the thing you’ve got, because you can ask the entire planet.Although that being said, many examples of the sharing economy work on a slightly smaller scale – bringing focus back to local communities and areas. And the companies that are taking advantage of these ideas are highly successful in producing profit and in changing the way that we do business.
Here are some amazing examples:
Uber – Uber is a ‘taxi’ company, or more like a ‘taxi replacement’ company. Rather than having to hire a taxi from a taxi firm and pay obscene amounts, Uber allows you to look for registered drivers in your local area that are willing to offer lifts for a small price. Anyone can sign up to become a driver with Uber and using the app, it’s possible to see where the drivers are at any given time, how much they’re going to charge and how long before they get to you!Suffice to say that Uber is currently giving traditional Taxi firms a lot of sleepless nights. It has made nights out in London far more convenient and affordable. And it’s looking into providing patient transport for moving the elderly from hospitals. This could potentially solve problems in countries like the UK where hospital beds are often full because of people who are simply unable to leave once they’ve been treated.
AirBnB – AirBnB is to hotels what Uber is to taxis. Once again, this is a solution that allows users to sidestep the usual (expensive) avenues when finding a place to stay. In this case, the solution is to allow users to offer guests to stay in their spare room, out house or holiday home while they’re away. That way, anyone can make some extra money and there are far more options for accommodation when travelling.
A similar idea is Couchsurfing, which lets users offer up their couches to strangers for free. In exchange, they of course get the good will of other homeowners, and the idea is that you can end up with a network of free places to stay all across the world whenever you go travelling!
Schpock – Schpock is a much more direct and straightforward example of the sharing economy in action. Here, users are invited to trade their possessions or to sell them for a small fee. This is accomplished using an app to snap photos and then show them to the local area.How do companies like these make money? Sometimes, it is through advertising. Other times, it is by taking some kind of fee. In other cases, the companies focus on providing a great service and then rely on an exit strategy with the hopes that someone will be keen to buy their business.
Whatever the case, there are plenty of ways you can make a lot of money from these kinds of opportunities. So, have a think about your local community or the things you are regularly buying and selling. What could be transformed through the power of the sharing economy? How could you create the ‘next’ Uber or AirBnB?