By Neal Gorenflo
So you’ve built a sharing economy service. You’re ready to take it to market. But who should you start marketing it to first? Where to start?
Every business needs to start somewhere. Amazon started by selling computer books to IT professionals. eBay started by helping collectors sell collectibles. The short-lived social network Tribe started by connecting people in the Burning Man community.
A business’ initial market is often called a beachhead market. It’s where you start. If you pick well, you can expand quickly like Amazon and eBay did to other communities and categories. If you pick poorly like Tribe, you’re dead.
The type of asset you’re helping people share will often make the choice of beachhead market easy. If you’re helping people share boats like Cruzin, then you know that outreach in marinas will be important. Sometimes, however, the choice isn’t so clear. Below are four beachheads where other sharing companies have had success. One or more might be right for you.
By Cat Johnson
Car rental giant Avis’s recent acquisition of car sharing company Zipcar ignited much speculation about the future of car sharing. Some wondered if the move marked the beginning of the end for Zipcar while others argued that Zipcar, while one of the most visible players in the car sharing game, doesn’t represent peer-to-peer, nonprofit, or transit-based car sharing platforms.
Lee Broughton, head of corporate sustainability for Enterprise Holdings, recently wrote that the acquisition is not the watershed event that it is being made out to be. His angle is that car rental companies have offered local, convenient access to mobility for years and that they offer a scale and level of oversight that peer-to-peer car sharing companies cannot.
He cites a study of Boston-area Zipcar users that challenges the altruistic motivations for car sharing with claims that program members are unconcerned with the cars and the Zipcar community, and that they participate in the program only to save money and for their own convenience.
But the study was criticized as being flawed and the idea that its findings reflect all car sharing participants is inaccurate. Researchers only looked at 40 Zipcar users in Boston. That’s a very small, geographically- and demographically-limited sample. The findings are not even a good reflection of all Zipcar users, let alone all car sharers.
By Neal Gorenflo
Zipcar’s acquisition by car rental giant Avis closes the first chapter of the history of carsharing. Zipcar’s mixed success raises questions about the future of carsharing and the sharing economy. What lessons can be gleaned from Zipcar’s record?
The most important lesson is that Zipcar proved there’s demand for car sharing in America, the most car-obsessed culture on the planet. They made it possible for urbanites to act on a growing attitude and impulse around cars and car use – that cars are no longer a meaningful source of identity or freedom as they had been in the 20th century, and that access to them trumps ownership.
The importance of this shift can’t be overstated. The car is a linchpin of the consumer economy, at least in the U.S. It makes the high carbon, high-cost suburban lifestyle possible. When you loosen this linchpin, you begin to shift the entire pattern of consumption for the better.