Since our launch and finding ourselves squarely in the Sharing Economy we have drawn inspiration from other start-ups operating in this space. And every year since the launch of the FT Summit on the Sharing Economy we have taken our student interns with us for them to be inspired by the excellent ideas in action operating with the values of the Sharing Economy. Celine our 2016 student intern has described some of the excellent new ideas showcased at this FT Summit (scroll to the end of the blog to see the list of new fresh start up ideas).
I have a confession to make. I know next to nothing about economics. So when Lamia, the founder of HouseSit Match, kindly invited me to the Financial Times European Summit on the Sharing Economy, hosted in the heart of Canary Wharf, I was daunted to say the least. I fully expected to spend the entire day surrounded by mind-boggling charts, numbers and business suits. The outfits were there but rather than the sterile corporate conference I had feared, the day turned out to be so much more. The conference was a showcase of the best and the brightest in the business and it is clear that the way the sharing economy is moving is interesting, innovating, and most importantly, exciting.
What is the Sharing Economy?
Ever taken an Uber? Stayed in an Airbnb? Used TaskRabbit to delegate your household chores? The list goes on. The majority of us have at least heard of these examples and probably unknowingly we have used and promoted them. Welcome to the Sharing Economy. It’s one of the fastest growing economies in the UK, expanding from a €10bn industry in 2013 to €28bn 2015. This fast-paced expansion has been matched by rapid innovation. From the weird and wonderful start-ups (think croissant delivery in France when the shops are shut on a Sunday- Ravi Mattu the Summit Chair and Moderator gave this as an example) to the downright practical, the Sharing Economy seeks to promote peer-to-peer collaboration which stresses the mutual benefits for those involved. Whilst definitions vary at the heart of the Sharing Economy are people collaborating. Like most industries, there is a monetary element involved, but for once let’s minimise cynicism, it’s fundamental aim is to make life a little easier, more collaborative and a lot happier.
‘Trust’ the currency of the Sharing Economy
So much of this industry therefore is built on trust and much of the language and buzz-words surrounding the Sharing Economy industry focus on the collaborative ‘helping hand’: how can our company help you? Having started my internship with HouseSit Match over a month ago I was struck by just how applicable these larger concepts were to our own start-up company. What distinguishes HouseSit Match from its competitors is the extent they understand the need to build good faith, to build trust. The first panel of the day was called ‘Start-up spotlight – the next big sharer where they featured new concepts and start-ups. What was being encouraged by several members of the panel was the need to provide verified and legitimate reviews, both of which are guaranteed by HouseSit Match (leaving me feeling very proud and a little smug!)
For me as a young student, the best thing I took away from Tuesday’s conference was that whilst the majority of the investment forms tended to be fairly traditional, the most exciting ideas were coming out of my (oft-criticised) millennial generation. Challenging the stereotype of the self-absorbed social media-obsessed youth, people like Ross Bailey, CEO and Founder of Appear Here have been busy revolutionising the high street. Appear Here is an online company which specialises in short-term retail space, redeploying empty commercial space by publicising its availability online.
In layman’s terms this can mean anything from pop-up shops in small markets to concession stands in some of London’s biggest stores, including Topshop on Oxford Street.
I was struck by the sheer ingenuity displayed in acquiring unused spaces (a broom cupboard in one case!) then visualising and transforming them in such a new and creative way. From juice bars to jewelry shops, the Sharing Economy helps host them all.
However, much in the spirit of inclusive communities, the interesting players in the field remain diverse in age. It is clear that from cars, to accommodation, to services to collaborative finance (eg. crowdfunding), the sharing economy is all about stories.
This is what underpins VizEat, a platform which matches guests and hosts across more than 100 countries. In a bid to avoid the dreaded tourist restaurant, the hosts instead cook a meal within their own home. By encouraging informality and communication, Jean-Michel Petit, the co-founder of VizEat sought to remind the audience that The Table was the original social network, not Facebook. Passionate about food, travel and people, this was one of my favourite concepts from the day. In much the same way as HouseSit Match, the sharing economy offers a ‘money can’t buy’ special experience and promises to provide a sense of belonging, one of the most memorable moments during a holiday or extended trip.
The statisticians at PwC have predicted that the Sharing Economy and the profits associated with it will continue to grow, positive news in light of the recent minor (ahem) economic disruption. However further research is needed.
Benita Matofska founder of The People Who Share, stressed during one panel discussion the need for additional data surrounding the social impact of the sharing economy, in addition to the first research which focuses on its pure economic value.
While the panel debate explored the current fashion of community collaboration with big business, and big brands working to enter the frame by partnering with start ups (e.g. Mila and Swisscom, Love Home Swap with Intercontinental Hotels) Benita made it clear in her points that there is an intrinsic need in humans to share’ and from that basis alone, and the rapid technological developments facilitating speedier web utilisation ensure that the prospects for the Sharing Economy are strong.
In addition, looking at some of the examples outlined below, it is clear and inspiring to see so many companies promoting the social and economic value of experience.
So here’s to looking forward to new visions, new ideas and new experiences made available and affordable for all.
Great ideas and new start-ups in the Sharing Economy
Check out some of these great ideas and the new start-ups who attended the 2016 FT Summit –
Appear Here – Property – sharing retail property and pop up shops
BlaBlaCar – Transport – ride sharing
Fon – Telco – sharing your bandwidth with others as a wifi system
Gett – Transport – fixed fare black cabs, considered kinder to drivers than competitors
Helpling – Home services – cleaning services for the home
HouseSitMatch – Home services – managed housesitting platform, curated housesits, affordable travel
Just Park – Transport – Pre-bookable parking in shared spaces
Leetchi – Finance – Managing and dispensing money pots for group projects
OLIO – Food – food sharing platform to enable redistribution of spare food minimising waste
Mila – Home services – links members with experts in their neighbourhood to help with basic computer, internet, and tv issues in the home
VizEat – Food – Experience new cultural food experiences with locals in their homes or neighbourhoods
Vrum – Transport – connecting aspiring drivers and driving instructors in local neighbourhoods