The announcement of the birth of Sharing Economy (SEUK), trade body to champion the sharing sector shows that ‘sharing economy’ is now mainstream in financial circles.
Companies such as Zipcar and AirBnb have not just disrupted, shaken up their industries, they have made the notion of online platforms where people can share resources, share actual things and properties, skills and personal time, a sound business model.
Peer-to-peer marketplaces are included in this generic term, ‘sharing economy’ which will be represented by this voluntary member grouping which will ensure best practice and establish a code of conduct.
For the first time, the sharing economy should have a single, recognised voice speaking for it. The government is supporting it with the right kind of noises about big and small businesses, consumer choice and ‘advancing the frontier of online business.’
A nation of micro-entrepreneurs
First chairman of the organisation, Debbie Wosskow (of Love Home Swap) said the sharing economy has the potential ‘to turn the UK into a nation of micro-entrepreneurs.’
It is already worth about £9bn a year globally, but this could top £230bn over the next decade with a large slice of that in the UK!
Commenting on the sector last December, Allister Heath wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the sharing economy sounds excessively cuddly and utopian’, when it is ‘as hard-nosed as it is powerful.’
He explained that so much of our economy is ‘grossly’ under-used. Cars just parked for hours a day, sheds full of tools used occasionally, spare rooms in houses used intermittently. On a public sector level, we have schools and council buildings used only part of the day/year.
The digital revolution gives us the power to unlock these precious resources. By sharing, that is in reality ‘renting’ these assets to others, we make full use of them and circulate more money.
We are already used to selling our unwanted assets on eBay. Next we’ll rent them to secure a better return.
Debbie Wosskow wrote a report, Unlocking the Sharing Economy which Heath described as ‘chock-a-block with examples’ of it is taking off. From 20,000 property owners who rent out space on their driveways through easyCar to people who use AirBnB to lease spare rooms out.
There are many. Heath adds that many will fail, but ‘the potential is clearly gigantic, not just in the UK, but globally.’
It is a sharing of time as much as of assets. He cites teacher who offer services through Skype. He refers to car giant BMW working with car hire rentals firms, Sixt, to launch a sharing model to allow drivers to locate, unlock and start cars via an app. They will pay on a per-mile basis; they will not have to return them to a depot.
He thinks car-sharing and pooling will become the new norm, while acknowledging the BMW-Sext pilot will not suit large parties or those with children demanding child seats and guaranteed availability times. However, it may be with the growth of driver-less cars this idea of calling a taxi, in effect, will be commonplace anyway.
So many ideas
Start-ups and used already to sharing office space and servicing facilities. This will extend to most offices in the near future. Heath reckons that with continued decline in the public sector payroll, the amount of available working space will increase exponentially and that can all pay its way better than now.
He thinks that if regulation, insurance and health and safety issues can be established properly and fairly, then there is almost no sector that will not benefit from this sharing economy. ‘Freedom, markets and technology are a great combination.’
The sharing economy which soon will be known as ‘the economy.’
Also worth a look:
The Car of Tomorrow Is Arriving Today, 26 January 2015
The Digital Economy Is No Longer an Add-On, It IS The Economy, 27 August 2013
Image: Iehava nazareth Pikiwiki Israel