The sharing economy is tough not to love if you're a consumer. It is all about, well, sharing goods and services at a reasonable price.
You can rent a spare room through Airbnb, rent out your car on RelayRides, and even rent some spare closet space at ClosetDash. For all those people thinking this collaborative economy is a trend--or companies suing the likes of Airbnb and Uber--Melissa O'Young, founder of the event series Let's Collaborate!, says the sharing industry is only getting stronger. O'Young says the industry will pull in $350 billion in transactions this year alone.
During a recent lecture at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Social Impact Conference, O'Young moderated a conversation with founders creating businesses in the sharing economy. The panel's message was simple: the sharing economy has changed the consumer landscape and is disrupting businesses in every industry. Below, read their reasons why you can't ignore the sharing economy.
The old system is broken.
"The reason [the sharing economy] is all happening is because systems are broken,"Ted D'Cruz-Young, founder of food-sharing cooperative Mealku, told Knowledge@Wharton, the Wharton School of Business' blog. Mealku, in particular, is taking aim at the fast food delivery system. The start-up lets people order portions of home-cooked meals online from certified chefs cooking in their own homes. With just a $10 a month fee, you can pick a meal online and have it delivered to your home within 40 minutes of it being made. It's a simple way to connect chefs with a bit of time on their hands to customers who want affordable, healthy take-out.
Quality control is better.
Quality control for giant corporations has its limits. The sharing economy, however, is all about peer-to-peer transactions and transparency. If an Airbnb renter is a poor host, for example, users will know almost immediately. The entire industry is based on the bottom line of satisfying the customer and building a sustainable community, not selling as many products and making as much money as possible. The quality control mechanisms, like ratings and feedback, are right on each vendor's profile to help customers choose a reputable one.
Instead of the anonymity of faceless corporations, the sharing economy is a system of people--an ecosystem where the customer and the service provider are known to each other. "People have nowhere to hide, and that's great," D'Cruz-Young says. "We're removing bad actors from industry after industry after industry. You don't have the layers between us and finding out who is responsible for making something bad. It's just a person."
Internet is the ultimate life-support.
As Airbnb gets sued by hotel chains and states, it is only getting more noteworthy. The Internet is the ultimate distribution engine--it is always on, always working, and will continue to spread the sharing economy across the globe. John Wiseman, vice president of online teaching platform Skillshare, says the sharing economy will never disappear, even if some of its start-ups become outlawed. "It's like Prohibition for alcohol--it just went underground. The Internet is the ultimate access tool. You can't hide it," Wiseman says.