If you think about growing up in a house with your family, chances are you experienced some prototypical version of the sharing economy. There was probably only one refrigerator, washing machine, dryer and so on. And if you’re as old as I am, perhaps even only one TV, one car, and one phone. All of these were shared collectively and used as needed, as long as they were available. Of course, conflicts over things like who gets the car or 'what show are we going to watch tonight' eventually led to multiple TVs, cars and phones per household. But, in the vast majority of cases, there was no need for everyone to have their own refrigerator, washing machine and furnace. To own multiples would be incredibly wasteful, since there would be lots of empty space in each refrigerator and the washing machines would sit unused most of the time.
This is exactly the situation that exists between households and, for that matter, between businesses as well. There is literally tons of unused capacity sitting idle, much of the time, standing by for those occasions when they might be needed. Floow2 aims to capture that capacity.
Of course, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that the internet has the potential to turn the whole world into one big family. And yet, there is a bit of truth in it, at least insofar as it provides the kind of instantaneous connectivity that once only existed between people located in the same physical space.
And so, a new business opportunity emerges, which has been dubbed the sharing economy, not only among individuals, but among businesses as well. Of course, businesses being businesses, sharing means renting, but still, that can translate into considerable savings for large capital equipment items that are only needed occasionally.
There have always been companies that rent out equipment to businesses, which could be anything from copiers to bulldozers. But the new opportunity here is for businesses with spare capacity of their own to get into the rental business in order to more fully utilize their capital equipment. Perhaps in some cases, it might even tip the scales to justify the purchase of a large item, given opportunity for additional revenue generated by renting it out when it is not being used. In the past, the only options to generate additional value from capital equipment would have been to keep it or sell it, usually at a considerable loss.
So this is where a company like Floow2 comes into play
Floow2 describes itself as “an online intermediary service that lowers cost while it increases sustainability.” The service provides improved return on investment to the owners and decreased capital costs to the renters. The company has started out in the area of heavy construction and agricultural equipment with plans to expand into other markets shortly. According to company promotional materials, taking part in the sharing economy will increase “both our pleasure in life, and our opportunities.” The practice is more sustainable because, “we use what we already have. Fewer raw materials will be used and less carbon dioxide emitted.”
How does it work? It’s really quite a straightforward and familiar process. Prospective participants register on the website to create a personal account. Then they input their equipment availability or search for equipment they're looking to rent. When a match is found, an agreement is made. Like other participants in the sharing economy, compliance is largely maintained through feedback and reviews from other site members based on their experiences. Safety certificates are issued. Owners and users review each other’s trustworthiness. It seems like a natural. Their slogan?
“Floow2 connects. Everyone collects.”
Image courtesy of Floow2.
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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