Last week Uber raised $1.2 billion in its latest round of funding, bringing the company’s value to about $40 billion. The headline on TheStreet was: “Uber’s $40 Billion Valuation Nears Facebook Territory as Sharing Economy Continues to Soar.”
I find this headline quite accurate except for one thing – Uber is not part of the sharing economy.
I know that it might sound a bit strange, as Uber is one of the more common examples of the sharing economy. But bear with me for a minute while I try to make the case as to why Uber, despite being a business success story, still shouldn’t be considered as part of the sharing economy.
Looking at definitions of the sharing economy, one might actually think there’s no problem with addressing Uber as part of it. For example, in a 2013 report prepared for the European Commission, The Sharing Economy Accessibility Based Business Models for Peer-to-Peer Markets, the authors define the sharing economy as a space including “companies that deploy accessibility-based business models for peer-to-peer markets and its user communities.” Another definition comes from Adam Werbach, co-founder of Yerdle: “With sharing economy there are activities that take underutilized resources bringing them to use through the application of technology and community.”
Both of these definitions could fit Uber, especially with regards to its UberX service, in which ‘regular’ drivers use their own cars to provide customers with rides.
However, I believe that there’s more to the sharing economy than just creating peer-to-peer marketplaces and making a better use of underutilized resources. Take for example the framework Rachel Botsman, the co-author of “What Mine is Yours,” offers. She describes the core values of the sharing economy (or the collaborative economy as she refers to this space) as empowerment, collaboration, openness and humanness. “In terms of the underlying philosophy, it’s about putting these values above the end goal of profit maximization,” she writes.
Now, this might sounds like a narrative taken from a hippie lexicon, but to me it puts the finger right on the spot. The economic viability of the sharing economy is important, but so are the human values it promotes. After all, the hope (at least mine) is that the sharing economy will provide us with the much-needed vision of how a more sustainable future or a more humanized way of living would look. Click to continue reading »
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