“The sharing economy is the value in taking underutilised assets and making them accessible online to a community, leading to a reduced need for ownership of those assets,” explains Alex Stephany, author of The Business of Sharing. Some participants are altruistic, others expect payment.
Asset-light sharing platforms have emerged around the world with a wide array of offerings: accommodation (CouchSurfing, AirBnB), crafts (Etsy), home exchange (LoveHomeSwap), peer-to-peer car rentals (GetAround, Turo, Drivy, SnappCar, YourDrive, Easy Car Club), social dining in homes (EatWith, Feastly, VizEat), home labour (TaskRabbit, Handy, Thumbtack), parking spaces (JustPark, SpotOn), personal parking valet (Luxe), getting lifts (Lyft), and inter-city ridesharing (BlaBlaCar).
There are other platforms and services in home delivery (PostMates), packing and shipping (Shyp), laundry (Washio), walking your dog (Wag), gourmet meals (Munchery), drinks delivery (Minibar, Drizly), film equipment rental (KitSplit), neighbourhood rental products (NeighbourGoods), tool library for makerspaces (myTurn), apparel rentals (StyeLend, Rentezvous, Rent the Runway, Rent My Wardrobe), goods barter (OurGoods), exchange of pre-owned goods (Yerdle, Listia), reciprocal training (Trade School), and farmer-neighbourhood matching (La Ruche Qui Dit Oui).
Players are also emerging in bike-sharing, co-working and crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Kiva, Funding Circle, AngelList), and some of the original players have expanded their offerings. AirBnB allows not just sharing of rooms but also tree-houses, beach homes, boats and more; Uber offers individual rides as well as pooling and delivery.
These platforms are redefining the way consumers find, use, and pay for services, as well as how they engage with, assess and award service providers. For example, we cannot choose which Uber driver will drive us, but we can choose a crafts provider on Etsy. Designers need to market themselves on Etsy, but drivers need not create marketing collaterals on Uber. Uber provides some driver financing but Etsy artisans are self-funded.