Collaborative consumption is here to stay, pass it on.

A few years ago, I worked in the online classifieds business, where I was continually surprised by how active, diverse and resourceful the community was. People would scour their house, to make room for new stuff and sell old stuff. A slew of sites tried to capture this market and newspaper classified advertising plummeted. When we got smartphones, talk turned to hyper-local AR – Augmented Reality – we prototyped an app for our site that would display who was selling what in your area – you could look around and see virtual representations of what was for sale. Peer-to-peer for sellers and buyers seems ideal.  Despite being ‘defined’ in 1978, collaborative consumption has truly arrived over the last 12 months. And it’s not just likely to stay, but we will find ways to integrate it into our lives, from buying decisions to travel planning.  Peer-to-peer is getting everywhere. From car-pooling with companies like Avego, to entire marketplaces like ThredUp. One of the markets really being impacted is accomodation, a worry for hoteliers and travel firms, but illustrative of the social impact of all the talk of austerity. 

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AirBnB is one of the rising stars of this industry – with around 40,000 people staying in an AirBnB room tonight. Founded 4 years in San Francisco by Brian Chesky (CEO) Joe Gebbia (Chief Product Officer) and Nathan Blecharczyk (CTO), they have raised over $100 million in venture capital funding, including Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital,.

At the end of last year, they had 250,000 listings in 30,000 cities and 192 countries. So commited are they to their ideals and product, that one of teh founders now lives, permanently, in accomodation advertised on their website.

Collaborative Consumption has been championed by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in their 2010 book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. In June 2010, ABC Television’s Big Ideas programme included a segment showing Botsman’s speech at the TEDx Sydney conference in 2010, describing collaborative consumption as “a new socio-economic ‘big idea’ promising a revolution in the way we consume”.

Accommodation makes sense for peer-to-peer transactions, but the trend is for more industries to enter the loop. TaskRabbit, another company with significant VC funding, around $40 million to date, is bringing peer-to-peer to the world of good old fashioned leg-work – think concierge service by trusted, reliable people. Is there anything we, as consumers won’t buy peer-to-peer? We’re even happy to take peer-to-peer loans. Transactional collaborative consumption is the more obvious pillar to this market – but we’ll see more soft-services; baby sitting, job-sharing, car-servicing and the likes. Even if  social media doesn’t fragment, sites like Nextdoor look to be thriving and we could see communities of people with similar demographics, interests and locations clustering online, but as an adjunct to their real lives. Within those groups does an opportunity exist for connecting people who all travel to the same city for work, who leave at the same time and all require their children to be minded, their bins to be left out or their grass cut. It may take some time for the market to mature, but, if we work together…

External links & references

  1. AirBnB : peer-to-peer accomodation
  2. Collaboratve Consumption : Wikipedia
  3. What’s Mine Is Yours @ Amazon
  4. ThreadUp – Marketplace
  5. Swap.Com
  6. Erica Swallow writes @ Mashable
  7. From Dress To Bed: The Sharing Economy on Newstalk : Audio
Andy O'Donoghue

Andy O'Donoghue talks about technology, some say, too much.