October 8, 2018
I spent this past weekend camping in North Georgia with no cell service. As a Millennial, I found being disconnected from technology quite uncomfortable, but it also gave me plenty of time to reflect on how much easier my life was thanks to technology. One of the main areas that kept coming to mind was the “shared economy”.
The shared economy has become one of the most popular, and arguably most effective, business models in my lifetime. The most well-known examples of companies that have led this technology-driven model are probably Airbnb and Uber. But home rentals and ridesharing are not the only services provided by this shared economy.
Less familiar companies like TaskRabbit, Care.com and Upwork are a crucial part of the new shared economy world in which we live. TaskRabbit provides in-home services from walking the dog to handymen coming in and fixing stuff around your house. Care.com connects consumers looking for sitters for children or the elderly with the people providing such services. Upwork was launched to help companies without a need for a full-time role in specialist areas like programming and design, to find “freelancers” with those skills.
There are even shared economy options for clothing. Did you know there is a service which enables you to borrow and wear a full set of clothes on a subscription basis, with the choice of buying them at a discount afterwards or simply returning them with free shipping? Women may be interested to know that Rent The Runway allows consumers to rent designer gowns for a special evening at a fraction of the selling price.
The list of shared economy services goes on and on. From sharing a car, to renting a scooter in the middle of the city, to sharing the workplace for periods of time, and even borrowing someone else’s clothes, there is one thing that these companies have in common – technology.
The reality of our era is that developments in technology have allowed service providers to build a platform – in many cases this is just an “app” – and monetize the benefits of sharing resources. One feature of this shared economy is that these platforms typically just facilitate the transaction between the consumer and the actual owner of the resource. This facilitation has allowed resource owners to make a few extra bucks in their spare time, or even create their own full-time job.
As a consumer of shared economy services, I enjoy finding goods and services at a discount within reach of my fingertips. Who wouldn’t want to simultaneously save time and money? The only requirement is to have a smartphone.
As I made my way back in to the “real world” with full cell service, I reminded myself of how lucky I am to live in a time where there is easy access to almost any service I could possibly imagine. And for those services beyond my imagination, there is no doubt that some App out there already does that!