Sharing economy does not necessarily mean altruism

By March 09, 2015
sharing economy

Whether you sublease your home during holidays, share short or long car rides, share your goods…The collaborative economy is becoming a part of our daily life especially for the millennials generation. Let’s have a look at the idea behind the sharing is the new owning.

A question that was discussed by experts of the sharing economy from startups like Lyft, Airbnb, Fiverr, Yerdle, Bridj, Shareable, ‘BrellaBox etc. during the two day Collaborative Economy Conference, was to define the collaborative economy. For instance Lyft and Uber may often be referred to as the sharing economy but are they really?

Some of the factors that contributed to the growth of collaborative economy were essentially common threads reflecting the evolution of our society such as the common workplace. When the marketplaces were small, high quality services were delivered to everyone. As they became larger the quality of their services dropped. They became less personal. At the same time, with a population of 9 billion growth has to be sustained and as Neil Gorenflo, founder of Shareable, a news and connection hub for sharing transformation, rightly recommended, we have to “learn how to share or we will perish”. Millennials do play an important role as well, said the CEO and Co-founder Micha Kaufman of the startup Fiverr, an online marketplace where everyone can offer services starting at a base price of $5 in addition to getting their work reviewed. Kaufmann mentioned that most of their buyers are millennials looking for ways to connect. A lot of studies showed that generation X has been focusing on themselves “me” whilst the next generation Y focuses on “we”, they actually think as a collaborative. Technology made it possible for these marketplaces to reconnect and exist at larger scales.

The collaborative economy strengthening the independent workforce

Sharing does not necessarily need to be motivated by altruism: there is an environmental benefit to be gained from there - it is much more about putting capacity to efficient use. Agility is key to success in the collaborative economy. Like Emily Castor, Director of Community Relations from Lyft, said that the sharing economy decouples people from a fixed asset through the ability of having to pay significantly less and actually make social connections and get to places in a quite affordable fashion. Whereas before people would spend money on a personal vehicle which they would have to justify by using it extensively, this new market allows people to feel good about themselves whether they have it or not. And with all the choices that are being offered nowadays people can be more free and make more choices: “Together can cause people to think more cautiously” said Emily Castor.

Rachel Barge, Director of Growth from Yerdle, an online store where people can give and get things for free, says that a lot of people do not understand the strategy of the products: most things could and can be used multiple times. Part of the sharing economy is to benefit from each other but the collaborative economy has to be developed as well, which is the reason why Yerdle decided to cut out the middleman (the merchant) to save up time and have users just directly “sell” their goods. The company introduced an alternative currency as they noticed that people do not feel comfortable claiming something if they can’t give something in return. The “yerdle credits” give the user a better feeling about collecting goods.

Jeremiah Owyang made the metaphor of the sharing economy comparing it to a honeycomb (see picture below) saying it is growing and “there is plenty of honey in our new market”. It is an economic movement where common technologies enable people to get what they need from each other. The crowd transforms into a company having the ability to be self-funding, producing and sharing what people already have. The honeycomb perfectly describes the topic of the collaborative economy as it reflects efficient and resilient structures allowing individuals to connect, share and grow resources together just like bees nurturing their offspring to grow the colony.

The idea behind the sharing economy

The idea is that people use their platform to pursue their passion; people are looking into having ownership of their time as they often no longer have job security. Sharing is the new owning and the way it is scaled is different too, in the sense that it is money vs crowd vs people. In order to be able to have a life and a certain job security, people want to be more in charge and thus become their own managers commanding their own working schedule. It is also more of a distributed thought. Earning money through a sharing platform is a very appealing form as it gives the individual not only the feeling of delivering a service but also benefiting as well as supporting from earning money through sharing and helping others out.

Looking back at our example of Lyft or Uber one can say that they may not necessarily be sharing or collaborative due to the simple fact that they are selling a service to an individual. However this concept changes when you take an UberPool or LyftLine, where the service is shared between other “participants” of the ride.


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