They used to say sharing is caring. Now, it's big business.

Ever since Uber took a wrecking ball to the private transportation industry, the sharing economy has spread like wildfire, inspiring sharing apps for everything from power tools to pet sitters. Owning assets, increasingly, doesn't make sense. It's why Uber is now a Goliath, why WeWork is worth $45 billion, and why a company like Bird can add $1 billion to its valuation in only four months.

But as much as this trend has already reshaped modern life, the transformation is far from over. Now, the sharing model is expanding to its next logical step: coliving, or the uberization of your apartment.

Surveying the Coliving Landscape

Coliving refers to housing complexes that apply the sharing economy model to living space. Most spaces offer residents a furnished private or semi-private bedroom with shared communal spaces like kitchens, common areas, and bathrooms, in an effort to solve some of the common problems of modern urban living.

But unlike ridesharing, the coliving market is still anyone's game. Coliving spaces are popping up all over the globe, both in tech mainstays like San Francisco and distant destinations like Bali. And the logistical model varies, with each company offering its own take on what the future of living looks like.

WeWork's own entry, WeLive, aims to solve everything for tenants. They offer extremely flexible leases, pre-furnished apartments, and just about any amenity a young urbanite could hope for. It's part of the companies broader mission, which is to solve every basic need for its customers: work, live, party, or raise children, all in a building that starts with "We."

Other coliving companies like Upstart Creative Living are trying to use the model to solve one of the biggest conundrums of urban life: affordable housing. Upstart offers bunk beds or pods for around $750/month, which is remarkably affordable by LA standards.

Other developers are adapting the model to the high-end crowd. Metropolis, a new development in downtown Los Angeles, is offering luxury high-rise condos in a communal, mixed-use luxury lifestyle ecosystem. While not strictly a coliving development, they're adopting the same emphasis on a comprehensive living space and flexibility in payment plans and amenities to attract an upscale millennial crowd.

These complexes mark the beginning of a transformation that'll affect the entirety of the housing market. But if you dig deeper, it's even bigger than that.

It's More Than an Apartment

The takeaway from this trend isn't where you should find your next apartment. It's that our basic model for life is changing.

We're in the midst of the largest transformation in what life looks like since the industrial revolution. Projections show that roughly two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050. That means cities will need to house more than 6 billion people by that time.

This is a massive change, and our current model of living can't function in that context. Similar to how the industrial revolution provided new models for how people work and live, we need new iterations on these concepts to serve the needs of the global population in the 21st century.

Today's coliving spaces are a first draft for what this might look like, offering high-density housing that trades physical space for affordability, convenience, and community. These spaces look very different from the ideal of city living in the 20th century, but that's the point: we need a new vision for living in the 21st. It may look similar to today's coliving spaces or it may look different, but the sharing economy model lies at the heart of it.

When the Winds Change, Put Up Your Sails

For entrepreneurs, it's time to take note.

Any major change like this begets opportunity. We need a new model for living, and that means other industries need accommodate it. The products, services, and companies of tomorrow won't succeed by serving the needs of a 20th century urbanite. They'll fit into a whole new paradigm for life, and the ones that win will anticipate and act on this paradigm shift before it happens.

It can't be said enough, but if you want to build the next Facebook, you won't do it with a social network. Facebook was right for 2008. Not for 2028.

The next unicorn will succeed by serving the needs of a new kind of urban-dweller. They may live in pods, they may hop between WeLive facilities, or they may live in some new arrangement that noone has dreamt up yet. But they will live differently than we do today.

No matter what industry you're in, the needs of your customers will change as their living situation changes. That change is already underway.

It's time for entrepreneurs to start planning for it.

Published on: Dec 6, 2018