America is the land of ownership – we like to own our house, our business, our cars, our tools and our tech toys. But more and more, that model is being challenged by new ways of thinking about products, property and what works today and what may work in the future in business and personally.
Examples are everywhere – from crowd-source funding entities like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to share-a-bike and share-car companies that we’ve come to appreciate like Bike Share and ZipCar, we’re becoming accustomed to thinking about how convenient it can be to have others help us shoulder the load, particularly in a tough economy.
It’s fun to explore what you can share and to think about how that might apply to your life and to your business. While the idea of couch surfing or house swapping may have seemed a stretch for a lot of people, AirBNB has made the idea of renting someone’s extra room for far less than the cost of a hotel, seem very appealing and quite do-able. In fact, an artist I spoke with recently said AirBNB made a big difference in making it viable for her to travel to teach around the country for an affordable speaking fee because she had the benefit of earning extra income while people stayed at her home. For help with work, there’s the concept of virtual offices and virtual service providers. Like them or not, Odesk and Elance and other companies can connect businesses with specialized workers at competitive rates. For help at home, there’s TaskRabbit, which you can turn to for help getting errands done.
There is a growing number of sharing business models challenging the traditional ways we think about consuming. There’s Feastly, where you could go to someone’s house for great food rather than to a restaurant, and Leftover Swap, if you don’t want to eat your own leftovers, but think others might. Will you need a place to park? There’s ParkatMyHouse for parking spaces at homes here and abroad.
Perhaps you have tools you rarely use, but are willing to share, you can think about starting a tool library in your community as other places have done. KitchenShare in Portland and the recently launched, The Kitchen Library, in Toronto do the same for kitchen appliances.
There are complications to be sure, as discussed in an October Chicago Tribune article by Ameet Sachdev in which he interviewed New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor Arun Sundararajan, who is a leading expert on the subject. Furthermore, giants like Hertz and Avis (which now owns ZipCar), large hotel chains and others are doing corporate acquisitions and launching sharing programs of their own to compete with companies challenging their space.
But for business owners and consumers, this is still a very interesting time to consider new options and opportunities both for shared services you need, and for considering the skills and products you have that you could share. To learn about more companies pursuing this space, check out the collaborative economy master list compiled by Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group.