Alex Stephany has that charming British accent that makes everything he says sound fascinating. Especially when he talks about a dear to his heart topic like the sharing economy aka collaborative consumption. Doesn’t ring any bells? Think again.
In “The Businss of Sharing: Making it in the New Sharing Economy,” Stephany defines the sharing economy as “getting slack to the pack” – the financial upside when excess capacity, whether that be a spare room on Airbnb or even a dog on BorrowMyDoggy, is rented or shared with someone else. In the book, he interviews some of his tech heroes like the founders of Airbnb, Zipcar and BlaBlaCar.
Here are Stephany’s thoughts on this emerging trend:
- What’s the biggest misconception about the sharing economy?
The sharing economy’s name has long got it into trouble because people focused on the first word when this is unmistakably a commercial as well as social movement, driven in part by the need to make and save money in the aftermath of the credit crunch.
- What is so awesome about it? The freedom, flexibility? Access to things without the hassle of ownership ?
As an entrepreneur, for me I’d have to say the opportunities it can bring for entrepreneurship and micro-entrepreneurship – whether that means selling or driving or painting – or any manner of activities these new online platforms are facilitating. But that’s me. Entrepreneurship has many downsides as well as the upsides like freedom and flexibility. It’s a cruel sink or swim world where no-one will pay you for a sick day or pay into your pension. So it’s not for everyone.
- How can the average person can benefit from it? Give us some practical tips for people who could use some extra income.
I think it’s partly about finding about what’s out there in the first place and working out how these are aligned to the person’s time, skills and assets. There’s an appendix at the back of “The Business of Sharing” with a list of the major platforms too.
- How did you take advantage of it?
I’ve Airbnb’d my flat when away and actually got to become a Superhost. I’ve used Zipcar and carsharing platforms when I’ve been on holiday (often it’s easier to pick up a car from someone’s house if you don’t pick one up right from an airport). I’ve also used freelancer platforms to get odd jobs done.
- Where do you see this trend going?
In part, it’s more and better – you only have to look at this tweet from the Airbnb CEO to see that. But the sharing economy will also break into new areas – such as businesses or even hospitals sharing goods, for example through Cohealo.
- What would you say to those apprehensive to give it a try because they say ‘it’s not stable.
Like any form of consumption, sharing economy platforms have their risks. So whether you’re supplying goods or services or receiving them, get familiar with the legals, check out if there is relevant insurance in case something does go wrong – and of course rely on your instincts to not interact if you don’t feel fully comfortable as well as word of mouth recommendations.
Snack On This:
Stephany’s tip to make some quick cash using stuff you already own: “Go round your house and try to look at everything with fresh eyes. When was the last time you used or wore that thing? Perhaps you could make a little money by parting with that thing on the countless platforms out there – like Village or Wallapop here in London or the ones in your area too.”
Watch Stephany talking about his book. You can also follow him on Twitter.