Many of the companies that supported our Indiegogo campaign are active participants in the sharing economy and we wanted to hear more about their companies and perspective on the sharing economy. We've asked each company to answer the same questions and we'll be rolling out the answers over the course of the series.
What's your name?
Kevin Clark. I'm the Founder and CEO of uSwapia.com.
What does your company do?
uSwapia is an online platform that facilitates the swapping of different services and artisan goods. We shift the traditional barter or trade from being a 1-to-1 exchange between two people, to a system that allows individuals to share what they have and get what they need with any other member, regardless of whether each party is interested in the other's offered goods.
When were you founded and how big are you?
What started as a collaboration of thoughts and ideas became incorporated in the beginning of 2012 as uSwapia, LLC. Beta testing launched last November. Currently, I'm the only full-time member, but I have a team of amazing designers and programmers working alongside me in the spirit of sharing.
How do you define the sharing economy?
I look at the sharing economy as a system and solution to many of today's most pressing issues like living beyond our means, overconsumption of natural resources and rising amounts of waste. The sharing economy also encourages many aspects of humanity that seem to be less and less common these days, like face-to-face communication and the give-and-take mentality.
How does your company contribute to the rise of the sharing economy?
uSwapia tries hard to show the public that we all have knowledge or skills that don’t really cost us much more than our own time to execute or share. Most people don’t think of these things that come easy to them as something could be used to “pay” for some or all of what they need or want. We want people to start thinking more about using these skills and creating a sense of community in their neighborhoods, and less about what they will be getting out of a trade financially.
How do you build community?
It seems to me that when money is taken out of the equation, people connect on a higher level. Bartering requires a certain level of faith and trust, often times in a stranger. So, we tend to talk more to the person we are doing business with, asking questions such as how long have they been doing this or that, how did they get into it, what do they like about that field of work, etc. Conversely, those people we are getting to know want to know more about us. I think this can be the start of a deeper bond, as we learn more about the individuals in our neighborhoods or city.
How does your company reduce consumption and stimulate economic growth?
We keep hearing in the news about how college graduates are not reaching certain “milestones” as quickly as they used to. The economy feels shaky, at best. Since uSwapia allows people to trade for what they need or want, it can then be used almost as a disposable income. Different goods or services someone wouldn’t normally buy, or be able to afford, are now made easily available through trading. Users then have more money in their pockets to put towards a house or car payment, paying off student loans, saving for the future, or even just buying that big-ticket item. Since people are trading time or items they already have, then individual consumption is reduced and the sharing economy takes its place.
Can you share a recent milestone your company has achieved?
We are working on a marketing campaign for our west coast launch, where the majority of travel, services, goods, and work will be paid for using bartering and trades. The scale of it has really astounded me and I am truly humbled by how excited and enthusiastic people have been.
What’s your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been trying to show people that we each have some skill or talent that can be used to help us pay for what we need or want. Whether you can change someone’s oil, babysit the neighbor’s kids, pick up someone’s dry cleaning, or cook a meal for someone – things we do every day can be of value to other people. I remember when I was in graduate school, I was gone from 9-9 each day. By the time I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was think about cooking a meal for dinner. My neighbor started leaving a plate of food for me in exchange for some computer help and work in her yard on the weekends. She felt like an extra plate of food was no big deal, but to me it was the world.
What is your favorite thing to share?
I’m an acupuncturist by trade and love sports medicine, so I am always happy to barter acupuncture services when someone comes in with an injury but might not be able to afford a treatment. It’s what prompted the idea about starting uSwapia!