A couple of multi-billion dollar start-ups got us thinking. What’s the common thread between Uber and Airbnb? They don’t sell stuff to people. Rather they help people sell their own stuff. In the case of Uber, they help people sell their driving services. With Airbnb, it’s accommodations that are sold. Just a coincidence or something bigger at work? Then we noticed a few more very successful newcomers that fit this theme – Lending Club, Shopify and Square, among others. Lending Club helps people make a profit by directly lending to other people. Shopify and Square help people sell their goods through e-commerce and transaction engines.
Some have termed this the sharing economy or peer-to-peer sharing. We prefer to look at the theme a bit differently. There are companies that facilitate sharing such as carpools (Live Rides) or even wifi signals (Fon). We don’t necessarily include these categories in our definition because the emphasis is on sharing rather than selling. There are other companies like Shopify that don’t necessarily fit into the “sharing economy” because they sell their software to merchants in somewhat traditional fashion. Why we include them under our definition is because their tool enables anyone to build an online store and sell things.