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Need More Proof We're in the People Economy? Follow the Money

There's big value and big profits in helping people work together--and venture capitalists have taken notice.
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There are hundreds of thousands of tech start-ups in the United States alone, employing millions of people. And more start-ups emerge every day. The sad reality is that most of these companies will fail--with or without adequate funding. Investors know the odds are stacked against start-ups, and that's why they look for the next Facebook, LinkedIn, home run that will pay off real big.

So which markets are hot for venture capital dollars right now? Not surprisingly, investors are throwing money into companies that reflect the new economic model for the connected, people-centric world we live in. As analyst Jeremiah Owyang wrote in a blog post, "The Money Flows in the Collaborative Economy," the funding is going to companies that understand that "...individuals are getting products, services, time and space from each other."

Follow the money--Uber and AirBnB, poster children for the 'people economy,' have collectively raised hundreds of millions of dollars in just a few years--and you'll see that companies promoting collaboration and sharing are the darlings of the investment world right now.

And for good reason: The companies with the best chance of winning big put people first and allow them to communicate easily. Here are three lesser-known companies whose funding proves that nearly every industry has joined this economy. 

TaskRabbit: Nixing the Middleman

It wasn't always easy to hire temporary workers. Most temp agencies charge a huge fee and engage companies in bureaucracy to get an employee through the door. But TaskRabbit has turned temp employment on its head.

The mega-successful company aggregates tens of thousands of "micro-entrepreneurs," who can be hired with a click and eliminate the middleman. TaskRabbit also makes temporary staffing more efficient by sharing credentials, resumes, and background checks all in one place.

By listening to what both employers and temp workers want, it's paid off. TaskRabbit closed a $13 million Series C funding not long ago and their CRO said that their more than 15,000 TaskRabbits want "flexibility and diversity" when it comes to work, so that's exactly what they get. For everyone, it's a win-win.

WedPics: Crowdsourcing Wedding Photos

Everywhere, people are buried in their smartphones, and weddings are no different. Phone cameras snap endlessly from the minute the bride walks down the aisle until the last guest clears the dance floor. At most weddings, guests capture moments the high-priced photographer can't. Everyone who experiences them wants to relive the memories later, but promises to share or send photos are often forgotten.

That's where WedPics comes in. The free photo-sharing app lets guests upload every photograph to the couple's online album. WedPics consolidates them in the same place, making them easy for people to share. The company, which is used at more than 3,000 weddings each weekend, raised a $1.1 million angel round in May and expects to close its Series A before the holidays.

Lyft: Creating a Community

If you needed a ride in a pinch would you rather take a taxi or call a friend? The creators of Lyft would hope it's the latter. The peer-to-peer ride-sharing company launched in 2012 and has already raised about $83M in funding. Available in nearly 20 cities, Lyft is out to make transportation more social. Through a mobile app, users can order a ride that arrives in just a few minutes. Plus, Lyft passengers often sit in the front seat and chat with their driver, so there's fewer awkward silences than with a taxi.

You can't miss a Lyft vehicle with its pink moustache on front. Lyft has been able to keep prices lower than a typical cab ride and they've made the entire experience more pleasant than a traditional cab ride. In doing so, they've focused on people and created a growing community of drivers and passengers who take about 30,000 rides per week.

These companies are hallmarks of how the world's changed and why companies must think differently in the people economy. The common thread is this: There is big value, and profits, in helping people interact and collaborate with each other. What are you waiting for? 

Last updated: Nov 19, 2013

AUSTIN ALLISON | Columnist | founder and CEO of dotloop

Austin Allison is founder and CEO of dotloop, the fastest-growing technology company in real estate, and the co-author of Peoplework: How to Run a People-First Business in a Digital-First World.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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