Defining the Sharing Economy

 

We all are holding onto economic opportunity without knowing it.

That bike bought years ago, now stashed in the garage. The lawn mower we use once a week. The empty guest room left unoccupied.

It used to be that the economic value of these assets were quite low: after all, in order to rent out that empty guest room, you’d probably have to go out and make several phone calls, and pay for several advertisements.

That is no longer the case. One of the most powerful facets of the Internet is its ability to connect an infinite number of needs and wants frictionlessly, bringing together people who would have never had met.

One of the most powerful facets of the Internet is its ability to connect an infinite number of needs and wants with each other frictionlessly, bringing together people who would have never had met.

By providing targeted conduits for these channels of communication, you and I can find the person with the empty guest room we want to sleep in, and they can find us. We can communicate our mutual desires almost effortlessly. This changes the dynamics of our individual economics: now everything we have stashed away steadily increases in economic value. Wasted value becomes much harder to ignore.

AirBNB allows us to rent out what were once unused guest rooms. Outpost Travel allows us to search for rideshares, occupying otherwise unused car seats. Breather allows us to rent out what would be unused office space.

Welcome to the sharing economy.

New technologies allow us to communicate and coordinate amongst ourselves, unlocking potential that had once been stowed away. None of us can afford to miss out on this liberation of what had once been passive and wasted resources.

As the sharing economy matures, and clashes with old laws, issues will arise as new ideas will bump against old realities. Yet the sharing economy will remain. It defines the spirit of potential that embodies new technologies.

Brian Chesky, co-founder of AirBnB on old realities. From Valleywag

Brian Chesky, co-founder of AirBnB on old realities. From Valleywag

Back in the 1990s, Microsoft presented you with software top-down, created by a set of programmers that were assembled from the top-down. Now, you can get your software for free from a set of programmers that organically collaborated from the bottom-up to build a project they all believe in.

It is this spirit that resides in the sharing economy, a bottom-up approach to economic value that uses technology to connect people with mutually beneficial needs, allowing them to organically collaborate, unlocking what had previously been wasted value.

The sharing economy is a bottom-up approach to economic value that uses technology to connect people with mutually beneficial needs, allowing them to organically collaborate,  unlocking what had previously been wasted value.

The author

Roger is an entrepreneur who has co-founded a social network entitled ThoughtBasin that looks to connect students looking to make a difference with organizations looking for difference makers. This experience has given him some setbacks, but also some priceless insights. He is deferring admission from the law school of University of Toronto to pursue his dream of creating impact through entrepreneurship, and he is constantly looking to learn and create, and to do more. He contributes to social entrepreneurship projects with his fellow Global Shapers, coordinates a volunteer tutoring site, and on his off time he unwinds by reading, writing, and dancing---sometimes, all at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Rogerh1991.