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THE STATE OF SMALL BUSINESS

The People Economy Goes Mainstream
 

From legal victories to widespread adoption, the stage is set for 2014.

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In the past year, the people economy made big strides in putting people back where they belong: at the center of their business. Behemoths like Apple and Starbucks, startups like Airbnb and Lyft, and many companies in between like L.L. Bean and Zappos, are all eager to disrupt their corners of the world by putting people--not technology--first.

In 2013, the venture capital money flowed into the people economy, as companies in nearly every industry realized that humanity, collaboration and creating personal experiences are what matter most.

But while 2013 was a year of significant progress, it was only just the beginning. I predict that 2014 will be the year that the burgeoning people economy goes truly mainstream. Here's how.

Consumer Sharing Services Go Legit

Ride-sharing startups Lyft, Sidecar and Uber won legal triumphs in California in 2013, allowing them to operate as legit businesses, provided the companies meet certain requirements that include driver training, a zero drug and alcohol tolerance policy, and a $1 million-per-incident insurance minimum. The recent California Public Utilities Commission's ruling created a new category of service--the "transportation network company"--a concession that yesterday's rules and regulations don't always apply to our new economic model. The decision was a boon to the people economy as a whole, though there are many battles still to be won.

Airbnb still exists in a legal gray area in its fight with the State of New York over the service's legitimacy. It can take months (and even years) to resolve legal matters like these, but Airbnb will ride the wave of public opinion to move closer to operating in the legal fold. As I've written before, community is at the heart of the people economy, and that community will create more legal recognition for services such as Airbnb throughout 2014.

What's more, I predict that ride-sharing services will capitalize on their victory in California to expand into new markets such as my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Queen City is ready for the ride-sharing revolution!

Collaboration Eats the Enterprise

The impact of enterprise collaboration on 'business as usual' is already on the rise, and in 2014 it will become practical at scale. For the first time, users within companies, not IT leaders, are leading the charge and adopting applications such as Box and Dropbox because they want a faster, reliable and more mobile way to work together.

The massive growth of these two competitors show how mainstream cloud-based file sharing has become in all industries. Box, which counts more than 180,000 enterprises as customers, raised $100 million in December 2013 at an astonishing $2 billion valuation, and is expected to file for its IPO in early 2014. Dropbox, meanwhile, is seeking $250 million at an even more astonishing $8 billion valuation. The company reported 175 million users as of July.

Need more proof that enterprise collaboration is going mainstream? Mature industries that have traditionally lagged behind in adopting new technologies are getting in on the act, including real estate. As an example, Keller Williams Realty is one of many major brokerages to embrace collaboration through dotloop during the last few years. And being the largest real estate franchise in North America, it rolled out Google Apps to 90,000+ agents, one of the largest deployments ever.

Next year will be the year when enterprises across nearly every industry adopt enterprise collaboration tools widely, be it Box, Dropbox, Google Apps, dotloop or others. These let companies put people first in business, which is just how they like to work.

Widespread adoption (and legal recognition) for consumer-focused ride- and apartment-sharing services, or enterprise collaboration services, show the massive progress the people economy made in 2013. The best part is people at the ground level desiring a better way to work are leading the charge. These changes are bound to continue in 2014 as the people economy goes truly mainstream.

IMAGE: Alfredo Mendez/Flickr
Last updated: Dec 18, 2013

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.
@GAustinAllison




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