Originally published on August 2015, here
This past week Rafa, Javi and I had an interesting lunch conversation on what the so-called “sharing economy” means and what “sharing” actually means in this context. We also discussed on the levels of disruption that the sharing economy is bringing to the market.
First of all, I agree with the idea that most of the examples of sharing economy (Uber, Airbnb, BlablaCar) are not a sharing economy. Let’s call it by its name: it’s more about taking advantage of unused capacity (in a manufacturer way of saying) to our favor. That is, making money* by using our assets to the full capacity: We have an extra room/house, we put it for rent. We don’t use our car while at work, we put it for rent. We don’t “share” it, we charge for it. And as Rafa said, it’s been the good old concept of renting!
So why was it so hot** and got people still talking and discussing about it? What has technology done in this change? How disruptive has technology been?
Technology, has not been disruptive. It offered options for booking (a car, a room, you say it) and that has been around us for many years. So where’s THE new? What has technology done? My answer can be too simplistic (and I can be wrong), but I think the disruption in this digital economy has been to allow people to become entrepreneurs (call them startup founders to make them sound sexier) and to have a larger, closer audience, given the reach of social media networks and their faster expected response.
So did Airbnb disrupt the accommodation industry? Yes, as it allowed ANYONE to become an entrepreneur by offering accommodation services. Is it putting the industry in risk? That I don’t know as I think the Airbnb option offers a different value than that offered by traditional accommodation services. My guess is that services like Airbnb are increasing the disposable income of families, and that translates into higher levels of consumption (which lastly, should translate into GDP).
So what are the challenges we have to face, or more importantly, the changes we must promote as corporate citizens? I think we need to allow people to become owners of their own change by providing them with the information, facilities and technology that will push them to move forward . I think we need to challenge the city/country policies so that we can promote fair and competitively healthy entrepreneurship. I think we need to push big companies to change their ways of thinking to be more open to innovate and listen to their users as people and not as markets. Lastly, I think we need to make companies (and their shareholders) feel comfortable with ambiguity and with being able to continuously challenge their own business models and structures as I think that in this “a la carte” economy disruption, cannibalization and change are the norm.
Do you have any thoughts to share? (or to care?) ;)