Without a doubt, 2013 was the year of the sharing economy. Even if you didn’t car share, bike share, haven’t invested in shared solar projects and haven’t yet had the opportunity to dine on gourmet meals through a community meal-sharing program, your life was probably transformed in one way or another by the rise of the sharing economy.
Perhaps you purchased something that was funded through crowd funding. Or maybe you had an appointment with someone at an office that shares space for entrepreneurs. Or maybe you were one of the many grateful visitors to New York, Los Angeles or Vancouver Canada that found a cozy home to stay in for a fraction of the cost of a motel. Individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy found kindness and accomodations thanks to the sharing economy.
Of course, our lives have been transformed by the uptick in sharing economy businesses this year in other ways as well. New taxi sharing businesses and other entrepreneurial efforts led to new laws in California. The city of New York pushed back against the concept of apartment shares that don’t conform to the city’s bylaws. And one community in New York deemed bike share facilities “disrespectful.”
But in general, the sharing economy did well this year, both in dollars and in impact. According to author Rachel Botsman, the sharing economy’s global dollar value is around $26 billion. At the beginning of the year, Forbes predicted the sharing economy would be a “disruptive economic force.”
But its real mark I think is in how it changed our perspectives toward community, consuming and personal responsibility. The following concepts set benchmarks for change:
- Bike Sharing – The simple concept of passing a bike to another person has perhaps done more to transform city transit more than any other concept. New York’s Citi Bike has made city travel possible in New York. Mexico City’s Ecobici has cut a swath across economic barriers. Seattle’s newest program puts a new spin on an old topic: Cities need affordable and easy-to-access transportation.
- Car Sharing – The car sharing industry started with small businesses and in no time became an attractive business model for larger corporations. Is that what the sharing economy is all about? Maybe not for some, but companies like Daimler (Car2Go) and Hertz (On Demand) have had the money and clout to make large fleets affordable. Avis recently acquired frontrunner Zipcar. Autolib (France) and Mobility Car Sharing (Switzerland) remain regional favorites as well.
- Crowdfunding – Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Fundageek and GiveForward and others have revolutionized the way we see investment and opportunities. Sure, they have had their challenges, but their impact on small business innovation has been substantial.
- Meal Sharing – The San Francisco favorite, Munchery, shares by helping working and at-home customers to connect with the city’s many great chefs. Its online app does the work, minimizes the hassle, the searches and the traffic and users get restaurant quality meals at home.
- Educational Resource Sharing – Anyone who has been a freelance or adjunct teacher knows the major hurdles often aren’t in the classroom but in the voluminous legwork that is required to launch independent classes. WeTeachMe cut through all of those headaches and made it easier for teachers to promote their classes. The small group of Melbourne entrepreneurs has spearheaded classes in on at least three continents.
- Solar Investment – One of the greatest obstacles to private solar installation is its cost. Mosaic thinks its collaborative investment model will address that. Nominal investments not only provide a rate of return for investors, but help fund community projects that are greatly needed.
- Accommodation Sharing – Airbnb has not only opened the doors to an alternative way of thinking in regard to travel, but has forced cities and other governments to review their housing codes and ask questions about what residents want and need.
So what will the outcome be for the sharing economy in 2014? Will we continue to use community sharing to enhance technology and improve our environment? I can’t wait to see how the global community applies the principles we’ve learned from sharing economy to next year’s discoveries.
Image of electric quadricycle for car-sharing by Applus/ IDIADA iShare at Auto Shanghai 2013 supplied by El Monty.