Tom Friedman wrote about the
sharing economy recently in his New York Times column profiling AirBnB. They
are a company that helps connects travelers who don’t want to pay for an expensive
hotel room and instead are matched with people willing to rent out a room in
their house. This model connects a need with
an available resource.
If you haven’t read it his piece, it’s a great read in Tom’s
brilliant and understated style.
Ironically, I have been working on a blog post about
AirBnB. One of the two founders, Joe
Gebbia is someone who had approached me about another business project when I
worked at another company. I can’t claim we are friends but just business
Joe was a design student and had an interesting product he
was trying to get manufactured called CritBuns.
It was a cushion designed for students doing critiques of design work - thus
the crit for critique. Unfortunately, I was less than helpful getting the
product made for him because at the time the company I worked for a company
that had some issues with their manufacturing process and we just couldn’t
deliver on what he needed. I think I did him a favor in pushing him to find
someone else to make his product.
Joe went on to found, along with his partner, AirBnB.
The AirBnB model is fascinating on many levels. There are so
many ways that someone could take something and rent or lease it out. An
example given in the Friedman piece is that there are millions of drills in the
garages tool chests in America yet they get used about 13 minutes/year.
SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
I am interested in this shareable model because it fits into
the disruptive approach to business. It
screams the question - how could
someone do something with an existing underutilized asset where there is a pent
up demand and need? It is like a puzzle. Can you solve a problem whereby a
consumer/business has a need and you have to use an existing and underutilized
I love these kinds of marketing games.
Here are nine underutilized assets worth thinking about if
you are considering starting a business
KITCHENS: How many restaurants and their kitchens that go
unused from 1am to 8am most days?
CARS: How many hours per day is your car being used? Mine
sits idle about 21 hours/day. In doing some research, I learned about www.lyft.com who is running with this idea.
TOOLS OF ALL KINDS: From grass mowing equipment, to pruning
shears to drills, think of how much stuff we all have that gets used a few
hours each month. This would apply to kitchen equipment like fancy blenders and
food processors too.
CLOTHING: Sharing clothing is an odd thought but I have a
tuxedo I wear about once every 3 years. What is its value on an open market?
How about women who have lots of fancy pocketbooks- what if they rent them out for
an evening to recoup some of their cash outlay?
PRODUCE: Think of all the zucchini that gets brought to an
office as freebies for colleagues. Is there a market for the produce home grown
that can’t be consumed by the owner? Or better yet, how can we collect and get this food to a place that feeds the homeless.
BOOKS: I must have 500 books on my shelf that sit there all
year long. I occasionally go back and reread one or two. Is there a way to
squeeze some value out of those books or even a fair market exchange? How about
the magazines that you get each month and sit in a basket? Could those have a
secondary market? How about my DVD's or old videos?
HOME OFFICE SPACE: Imagine you need an office and someone
has an empty house all day long with a nice working office. Could you rent that
space to someone who needs a place to work quietly? www.breather.com is actually working on something like this concept.
COMPUTING SPACE: Why isn’t
there a way to harness computing power more efficiently across all the excess
capacity that is out in the world? I know there are some projects like this
that have been started by NASA, SETI and others but can’t you see how this could
SCHOOLS: Most schools are empty about 30% of the time each year. From 6pm to 6am and on weekends they sit idle. Their must be a use for these resources that could help support education.
All of these opportunities require a well-thought out
business plan, require trust and an investment in lots of time. The distribution of the goods or under utilized asset is a big part of the puzzle to be solved. Check out www.shareable.net for more on the sharing economy and cities that are promoting these efforts.
But sharing is
only going to be a bigger and more important part of our economy. With
limitations on resources and a need to be more eco-friendly, who can’t imagine
a world where things become shared resources and not just your possession.
Note: When I am not researching interesting business models like the sharing economy, I try to unravel the mysteries of marketing. Won't you share my work with one of your marketing friends?
Labels: AirBnB, CritBuns, Joe Gebbia, Marketing Moments, Tom Friedman