People Are Sharing in the Collaborative Economy for Convenience and Price

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Below Graphic: Partnered with Vision Critical, Crowd Companies (the association I started for big brands in the collaborative economy) surveyed over 90,000 people to find out why they share goods, services, space, transportation, and money.

07_WhyTheyShared

A dissection of the largest study in the Collaborative Economy
Over the coming months, we’ll be dissecting some of the key findings from the largest study ever done on the Collaborative Economy, sharing both factual data and insights beyond market observations. When people first think of the sharing economy, a subset of the greater Collaborative Economy, they think of technology-laden hipsters in communes. What we found was quite the opposite – that this sharing behavior is common place behavior across many scenarios. We discovered that people often share for reasons that made pragmatic sense for themselves – not community altruism. If you want to view the entire report (over 28k already have), you may download it by clicking here.

 

[People are doing this for selfish reasons. But it's actually sustainable, this is good news for the planet. It's like healthy food that tastes good -Interview in the SJ Mercury]

People participated in sharing because . . .
We surveyed 90,112 people across the US, Canada, and the UK to discover how they share. In response to our direct question about why they share, they replied,

  • It is more convenient: It’s easier to get things from local markets, or efficient websites. For example, ride sharing with Uber and Lyft in San Francisco takes just a few quick clicks on a mobile app, with no credit cards or cash to fuss with, or cranky cabbies to hail. People who use eBay or online markets can quickly acquire or sell things via an online experience rather than fussing with a consignment store downtown. Commissioning a professional on oDesk or eLance is easier than managing a full time employee or dealing with taxes.
  • It is a better value: Getting used goods at a local level can often be less expensive than buying new. Poshmark, Threadflip, Rent the Runway, Bag Borrow and Steal all offer women’s fashion at a fraction of the retail price, yet providing the opportunity for women to look amazing in top stylish brands. Why own a town car when you can summon one on demand with Uber? Why deal with aircraft or boat maintenance when you can borrow a boat or a plane from a peer? In fact, in the Collaborative Economy, you can live like royalty across many verticals –without owning a throne.
  • It is a unique experience: Here’s where things get interesting. The consistency of cookie-cutter hotel rooms and common taxi rides are giving way to the unique experiences provided by Airbnb tree houses, lofts and homes, and Lyft rides where drivers fist-bump you in a themed, friendly ride. We found a group of people in the Collaborative Economy called Neo-Sharers who partake in sharing experiences (services, space, transportation) seeking unique, local, one-of-a-kind experiences – the opposite of the standardized products created by the concept of mass production.

While a lower priority, sustainability and altruism win too. While lower on the list, this list is a still a great place to be. People are participating in efforts that reduce consumption and waste, by sharing existing resources like cars, homes, products, and goods, rather than buying new. As a result, people are getting what they want (convenience at a better price) while conserving resources around them. This is a great example of the healthy-eating sector mantra that “healthy food that tastes good too.” For the sustainability minded, sharing is an opportunity to leverage.

The bottom line: There you have it. People tend to participate in the Collaborative Economy because it is practical and beneficial for themselves, while, at the same time, gaining a more sustainable lifestyle.

Report: Sharing is the New Buying, Winning in the Collaborative Economy

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The Collaborative Economy Movement Changes Business
This report offers critical insight for big brands who are grappling with the emergence of the Collaborative Economy, and for the startups that are driving this growth. For those new to the term, the collaborative economy is a powerful, if nascent, movement in which people are getting the things from each other, it’s a combination of trends like the sharing economy, maker movement, and co-innovation.

[In the growing Collaborative Economy, people fund, make, and share things with each other --rather than buy from inefficient corporations]


That means that people go to a site like LendingClub to get funding for their new project, rather than a traditional bank. Or, they may go to a site like Etsy or Shapeways to get custom made goods, or go to a site like eBay to buy pre-owned goods, instead of buying new products from retailers. In each of these cases, the crowd is self-empowered to get what they need from each other.

But while the collaborative economy is poised to disrupt many industries, there is remarkably little data on how many people participate in sharing and making, who they are, and, most importantly, why they do it. Our report paints a picture of the sharers in the collaborative economy and provides important recommendations for businesses that want to win in this new economy.

The Largest Study of the Collaborative Economy
By engaging 90,112 people the US, Canada and the UK, we uncovered three distinct types of people who participate in the collaborative economy:

  • Re-sharers: Those who buy and/or sell pre-owned goods online (for example, on Craigslist or eBay), but have not yet ventured into other kinds of sharing.
  • Neo-sharers: People who use the newer generation of sharing sites and apps, like Etsy, TaskRabbit, Uber, Airbnb and KickStarter.
  • Non-sharers: People who have yet to engage in the collaborative economy.  Although many of these non-sharers intend to try sharing services (in particular, re-sharing sites like eBay) in the next 12 months.

Crowd Companies and Vision Critical Team Up
In Dec, I launched Crowd Companies, an association for large brands that want to partner with the Collaborative Economy, to help these large companies navigate, find partners and shift their business models, hard data is needed to make real decisions. Partnered with Vision Critical, we’ve worked hard to launch a survey across 90,000+ respondents in USA, Canada, and the UK, to find out exactly how they share, buy custom goods, P2P lend, and crowd fund.  Crowd Companies council members will receive a private briefing with myself and Alexandra Samuel, my co-author, and we’re hosting an event for council members at SXSW this coming Friday.

This report contains the following:

  • Introduction and summary
  • Breakdown of the three groups of sharing customers
  • Market adoption rates
  • Taxonomy of the market
  • Breakdown by demographic: age, location, political party, marriage status and more.
  • Satisfaction rates of sharing services
  • Forecast of future behaviors and growth rates by sector
  • Recommendations for corporations: market opportunities, and specific departmental impacts.

Key graphics
There are nine graphics, which we’ll explore in future blog posts, here’s two key frameworks and graphics at industry level.

 


01_CE_Taxonomy_revised
Above: We’ve segmented part of the collaborative economy (there are still unexplored areas such as co-innovation, 3d printing and crypto-currencies) into five major categories: goods, services, space, transportation, and money sharing. These span the sharing economy and maker movement. In both methods, this enables people to get what they need from each other –rather than buy it from inefficient corporations.
03_Forecast
Above: We asked the thousands of respondents about their intended usage over the next 12 months, helping us to forecast behavior usage based on explicit responses. There’s significant growth in the sharing of used goods (up to 46%), but the overall growth rate will slow. Neo-sharing services are on the rise as custom services, personal services, places to stay, crowdfunding and moneylending to achieve double digit adoption rates.


Above: The larger infographic, which you can embed on your site.


Report Resources
Read, use, and share the following:

Related Reviews
Ill cross-link to key reviews of this report, leave a comment below if I miss one, or reply via a tweet.

  1. Vision Critical Blog: Why sharing is the new buying
  2. Fast Company: The Collaborative Economy Is Exploding, And Brands That Ignore It Are Out Of Luck
  3. Amy Bishop on how businesses can develop strategies in this market
  4. Mindjet: Sharing is the new buying
  5. Neville Hobson: New research shows what drives the collaborative economy
  6. Business Wire: With the core facts from the release
  7. Hubspot: The Collaborative Economy Is Coming for Your Business. Are You Ready?
  8. Ken Mueller: The Emerging Collaborative Economy: An Opportunity for Small Business
  9. B2C: The Emerging Collaborative Economy: An Opportunity For Small Businesses
  10. Scott Monty: Collaboration, sharing is the new buying
  11. Shift Communications Christopher Penn discusses why physical sharing increases earned media
  12. Shareable: New research sharing to double in next year
  13. eBay Blog: Customers in the Collaborative Economy
  14. Sustainable Brands: New Report Maps Size, Scope, Disruptive Potential of Sharing Economy
  15. Jonathan Wichmann a social business and logistics experts covers the report
  16. The Hook: Nearly half of Canadians taking part in ‘collaborative economy’: report
  17. Shel Holtz: The first substantive report on the burgeoning collaborative economy
  18. Harvard Business Review: Established Companies, Get Ready for the Collaborative Economy
  19. eBusiness Planet: See what drives the collaborative economy
  20. Viralblog: Sharing is the new buying
  21. Peers: How sharing is happening, via word of mouth
  22. Crowdsourcing.org covers the report
  23. For Immediate Release podcast mentions the report
  24. Ann Hawkins: The Collaborative Economy is going corporate
  25. Marketing Charts summarizes the report and data
  26. Linkedin Pulse, Beth Kanter discusses our SXSW panel which covered the report
  27. Audio: Social Media Show: How social is normalizing sharing
  28. IBM’s Sandy Carter references the report in her SXSW review video
  29. TechVibes: Sharing is the New Buying: How Brands Can Win in the Collaborative Economy
  30. David Deal writes: The Collaborative Economy goes mainstream
  31. VentureBeat: Wake up your company to the collaborative economy
  32. Salon: “Sharing economy” shams: Deception at the core of the Internet’s hottest businesses
  33. B2C: How to Develop Winning Business Strategies in the Collaborative Economy [Research]
  34. The Sharing Economy of Healthcare
  35. Jeremiah Owyang: Sharing is the New Buying – how to win in the collaborative economy
  36. Probono Australia: Profiling the Collaborative Economy
  37. New Geography: The part time, freelance, collaborative economy
  38. AdRants: What you need to know about the Collaborative Economy
  39. Marketing Mag features the infographic
  40. CMSWire: The Promises, the Challenges of Real Time

 


Methodology:
This report is based on two surveys conducted between October 2013 and January 2014 by Vision Critical’s Voice of Market with participants from the U.S., U.K. and Canada ages 18 and over. The initial survey of 90,112 respondents provided data on the overall incidence, frequency and nature of participation in the collaborative economy. The questions regarding the collaborative economy were imbedded in a general omnibus survey covering a variety of topics. The topic of the collaborative economy was not mentioned in the invitation to the survey. A follow-up survey of over 2,500 sharers provided deeper insight into the nature of participation in the collaborative economy and in particular, on respondents’ most recent sharing transactions. The data is demographically representative of the adult (18+) populations of the U.S., U.K. and Canada. The results were weighted by age, gender, region and education, to be representative of the demographics of each nation. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 0.3% for the sample of 90,112 and +/- 2% for the sample of 2,517, 19 times out of 20.


Special thanks to the extended Vision Critical team, including , Andrew Reid, Alexandra Samuel, Andrew Grenville, Jenny Smelyanets, and others.

Maker Movement and 3D Printing: Industry Stats

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A large crowd convenes at a Maker Faire for the full scale mouse trap.

This maker movement puts power in the hands of the people to fund, design, prototype, produce, manufacture, distribute, market and sell their own goods. This movement impacts global manufacturing as creation shifts geographically to local, philosophically to sustainability and legally to force the adaptation of new IP laws as people move from consuming to creating and sharing.

The following material features links, sources and dates, sorted in logical orders, to help you find key data that you’ll need to make informed decisions. Additionally, I’ll link to other listings and indexes that will provide further context. One of my goals is to serve as an industry curator to advance our collective knowledge, research, and in addition to own personal understanding. If this is truly a sharing economy, then we must be willing to share what we learn and know with others. If you would like to read an overview that includes three distinct business opportunities for corporations, read the full report on the Collaborative Economy Value Chain. Please leave comments with your input and URL. I’ll be happy to add and credit you.

Scope: The practice of individual people or non-traditional groups creating physical goods and products.


Market Capitalization and Value

  • Economic boost: “Makers pump some $29 billion into the economy each year.” USA Today, Oct 2013
  • 3D printing value: “The overall market for 3-D printing products and services hit $2.2 billion in 2012, a compounded annual growth rate of almost 29 percent compared to the $1.7 billion the industry recorded in 2011.” Wired, May 2013
  • Revenue of 3D printing: “North America & Asia-Pacific accounted for more than 68.0% of the 3D Printing Materials Revenue in 2012.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • Surge in sales: “MakerBot [a 3D printer manufacturer] had sold approximately 7,500 machines from 2009 to 2012, generating an estimated $10 million to $15 million in revenue.” Wired, Apr 2012
  • Breadth of the movement: Approximately 135 million U.S. adults are makers: “People who employ their creative skills in craft activities, such as making clothing, jewelry, baked goods or works of craft or art. That’s 57% of the American population age 18 and up.” USA Today, Oct 2013

Market Projections

  • 3D printing projected growth: “3D printing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23% from 2013 to 2020 and reach $8.41B in 2020.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • 3D printing  projected growth: “3D Printing Industry to Grow to $4B in 2025″ IDTechEx, March 2014
  • 3D printing growth projections: “World demand for 3D printing is projected to rise more than 20 percent per year to $5 billion in 2017.”   Reports and Reports, Dec 2013
  • 3D printing historic growth: “There was a 35,000% increase in 3D printers sold from 2007 to 2011, with 66 3D printers sold in 2007 and 23,265 sold in 2011.” Yahoo Finance, Nov 2013
  • Increased material demand: “The market for 3D printing plastic materials in terms of revenue was worth $70.5 million in 2012 and is expected to reach $209.6 million by 2018.” Ciol Bureau, Dec 2013
  • Europe growth: “Europe is expected to be the second-fastest growing market, with a CAGR of 15.7% from 2013 to 2018, owing to rising consumption in this region, where end-user markets of 3D printing materials are growing steadily, especially in manufacturing industrial and consumer products. The ROW market is expected to grow the least, compared to other regions in terms of revenue.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • European position: “Europe is poised to pass the Americas, in terms of revenue in 3D printing, by 2020.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • Global demand for 3D printing: “World demand for 3D printing is projected to rise more than 20 percent per year to $5 billion in 2017.” RnR Market Research, Feb 2014
  • Global demand for 3D printing supplies: “Global 3D Printing Materials Market to Reach $408.5 Million by 2018” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • Aerospace growth projections: “Much of the growth in 3D printing from 2014 to 2020 will come from the healthcare and aerospace industries.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • North American and Asia Growth: “North America & Asia-Pacific Accounted for more than 68.0% of the 3D Printing Materials Revenue in 2012.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013
  • Regional growth: “The North American region dominated the 3D Printing Materials Market revenues in 2012. Asia-Pacific is expected to grow at a high CAGR from 2013 to 2018, followed by the North American region.” MarketsandMarkets, Nov 2013

Venture Capital Investing

  • Andreessen Horowitz invested $30M in Shapeways, putting its confidence into the 3D printing industry. Wired, Apr 2013. Previously, Shapeways raised $5m to spin out of Philips. Shapeways Blog, Sep 2010
  • MakerBot raised $10M in Venture Round funding. TechCrunch, Aug 2011
  • Shapeways raised $48.5M. CrunchBase data from 2014
  • CustomMade raised $25.25M. CrunchBase data from 2014
  • Etsy raised $60M. CrunchBase data from 2014
  • Maker’s Row raised $1M in seed funding. CrunchBase data from 2014

Startup Valuation and Growth

  • “CustomMade grew from 350 makers in 2009 to more than 12,000 makers at the end of 2013 with $25.7M in venture capital funding.” Sacramento Bee, Dec 2013
  • “TechShop, a maker co-working space, has experienced 798% revenue growth in the last 3 years.” The Verge, Sep 2013
  • “Etsy is valued at $600M and has 263 employees. $2.28M per employee. Etsy increased sales by 71% in one year: 2010 – $307M to 2011 – $525M.” BitRebels, Jun 2012
  • “Etsy has 875,000 shops; 13,000,000 items; 2,900,000 items sold per month.” BitRebels, Jun 2012
  • “There are 15 million Etsy DIYers in over 150 countries with 690,000 new members joining every month.” BitRebels, Jun 2012
  • Etsy sellers don’t identify as hobbyists. 74% consider their Etsy shops as businesses. 91% aspire to grow their sales in the future. Etsy sellers are 88% women, 97% run their businesses from home, and they’re geographically dispersed around the US. Income earned on Etsy makes a real difference in people’s lives. It is used for household expenses, discretionary spending, savings and investment. Etsy sellers are characteristic of a larger shift to flexible work. 18% sell goods full-time. Only 26% have other full-time traditional jobs. Etsy shops are a new kind of “start-up” that aren’t run by stereotypical Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who want to grow as big as possible as quickly as possible. Etsy sellers are independent, self-sufficient and they want to stay that way. Survey of 5,500 Etsy sellers, Etsy, Nov 2010.

Mergers and Acquisitions: 

  • Stratasys acquired MakerBot for $403M, TechCrunch, Jun 2013
  • Materialise acquired 3D prototyping firm e-Prototypy, TechCrunch, Feb 2014
  • 3D Systems acquired Xerox’s Solid Ink Engineering & Development Teams, WSJ, Jan 2014

Events: 

  • Maker Faire has had over 50 events globally, with flagship events across key cities. Wikipedia, 2014
  • Google and MAKE Magazine held the Second Annual Maker Camp, with over 1 million kids participating in the online camp teaching teens to build, hack and explore.” TechCrunch, Jul 2013
  • “With its two flagship fairs in San Francisco and New York and 86 worldwide mini-fairs, Maker Faire had 280,000 attendees in 2013.”

Photo used within Creative Commons Licence, by OnInnovation.  Please leave a comment and URL with your stats, and I’ll quote and credit you. I’ll be updating this on a regular basis during 2014.

Uber’s Business Model Reframes Cheaper, Better, Faster.

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Uber redefines transportation by tapping new business models.
This age-old pyramid diagram above is the basis for many business models. Companies typically choose only one or two of the following qualities: Cheap, Fast, or Quality. To apply this model to the Collaborative Economy, let’s analyze how Uber’s products are fitting into the value propositions across various segments of the triangle. Uber continues to roll out new products, to take on new business opportunities and to combat opposition. To date, Uber is locked in a bloody war with the city of Paris, managing marauding taxi protesters, city regulations that require an Uber to wait 15 minutes before picking up a passenger and increasing bureaucracy at every turn. To combat the latest set of obstacles, Uber has just launched UberPOP, a low-cost, ride-as-a-service, offering smaller cars and cheaper rides than their other products or their traditional taxi competitors.

Uber’s business model is low inventory, high transaction, and high margin.
Uber’s business model is quite simple. They’re a web app, an advanced computer program and a marketing and PR machine. Founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, said at the recent LeWeb Paris (where I launched Crowd Companies, a brand council for this movement) that Uber is at the intersection of lifestyle and logistics. So why is their business model receiving over $300 million in funding, with a majority of it coming from Google Ventures? Uber is a simple, two-sided marketplace of buyers and sellers. They own no inventory, warehouses, distribution centers or other ancillary overhead required for most traditional business models to operate. Uber hasn’t gone without challenges. Critics point out that Uber is disrupting taxi business models, city taxes and traffic. Even Uber workers had a relatively quiet protest over lost wages, followed by, of course, controversial surge pricing.

The above graphic breaks down Uber’s more popular products, including:

  • Uber Town Car. They’re best known for this mode, which birthed the company. Drivers must maintain a 4.6 star rating out of 5.0.
  • Uber X. Regular cars owned by regular people who drive. Some are former taxi drivers. Cars must be no more than a few years old and clean. Drivers are also rated.
  • UberPOP. Recently launched in Paris, this offers smaller, lower-priced cars, which look nearly like ride-sharing business models.
  • Uber SUV. This larger version offers more room to take a group of folks around town or to a destination.
  • Uber Helicopter. Last summer, wealthy Manhattans who loathe hours in traffic could take a town car to a helipad and be whisked away to the Hamptons in minutes.

Seven lessons from Uber’s business strategy.
What can large corporations learn from Uber’s successful business model?

  1. Don’t be afraid to disrupt someone else’s business flow. Uber’s CEO shared on stage that he prints and tapes “cease and desist” letters on his office walls.
  2. Owning inventory is a liability, because being the middle marketplace is lower risk and higher margin.
  3. Tap the internet of everything, by applying sensors via mobile devices to find idle resources in a local area.
  4. Map those idle resources to buyers, using prepaid mobile apps.
  5. Deliver, and take at least a 15% commission from the transaction.
  6. Surge pricing is free market economics, the purest form of unregulated capitalism.
  7. Embrace bad PR as a marketing windfall. Bad press is still better than no press.

What else is Uber up to? This week, for Valentine’s day, you can order skywriting (nothing says I love you like 1200 point font), special deals for Vegas, including a stay at the Cosmo hotelice cream on demandSuper Bowl celebrations on your street with PepsiChristmas trees via Home Depot, and of course, kittens on demand. Purr.

How does the Collaborative Economy Weed out the Jerks?

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Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 3.13.27 AM

Question: When the crowd gets what they need from each other, who will monitor, regulate, ensure, and even insure?

Olivier Blanchard, a leading voice for digital business, posed a great question to a Facebook group in which we participate, asking how the sharing economy will contend with jerks that will mess with the sharing space. I’m paraphrasing his excellent question: “There are millions of jerks out there who will either resist this outright or try to twist it into something else if they get a chance.” He’s right. There are incidents that have already happened where someone visited an Airbnb and trashed the house, a car-sharing driver killed someonecrowd-funding has been used to commit fraud or, in the gift economy where people share goods for free, haven taken all and given little. This important topic was addressed at yesterday’s Resilient Summit, an event in Kansas City that I’m co-hosting.

Three Ways the Collaborative Economy Weeds out the Jerks.
I’d like to share the ways I’m seeing these crowd-based systems develop that are helping to identify jerks, and purge them from the system, as well as reward behavior that the community is seeking. Here’s what I’m seeing:

  1. Tapping the social graph as a form of trust. I frequently make the case that the first phase of sharing is social media, and that the collaborative economy (the physical world) is the second phase. I studied a sampling of 200 sharing startups and found that 74% of the startups had integrated some form of social profiles, recommendations or even Facebook Connect. For example, Airbnb offers Facebook Connect, so you can see which of your friends (or friends of friends) is offering a place to stay – or which of your friends has actually stayed there. Since we don’t have the trust mark of a brand like a major hotel logo, the crowd leans on real world personal profiles, like Facebook.
  1. Two-way ratings, where buyers and sellers rate each other. Traditionally eBay, Amazon and others have enabled customers to rate the selling company’s goods and performance. Now, because trust marks (brand logos) are not readily apparent in the peer-to-peer collaborative economy, we’re seeing new rating models emerge. We already know that buyers are rating sellers. For example, unlike Taxis, Uber riders can rate their drivers and cars. I’ve learned that Uber drivers must maintain at least a 4.6/5.0 rating or they are booted. On the flip side, the drivers are rating the passengers! If you don’t maintain a high rating, you may not get picked up on that late night out on the town. So, do as our moms taught us. Behave.
  1. As a failsafe, new insurance products are emerging. This new market is complex and risky.  The rules of liability are unclear as we shift “to a lifestyle of access over ownership,” as Lisa Gansky refers to it. Consequently, we’re seeing new forms of liability coverage emerge. When I rented out my car, RelayRides promised me a $1m coverage. But I still felt somewhat uneasy, as I wasn’t clear about to what extent this would protect me. Also, ride-sharing services like Lyft have announced that they’re expanding their insurance coverage.

The system will break, then fix. Accidents will happen and jerks will game the system. Then the system will self-correct. Expect this self-healing process to go on for many years. The process of self-correction is a component of nearly anything systemic. On a similar note, in the social media space, we saw the rise of trolls. Then Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and eBay launched reputation, purge and block features to try to rid of jerks. It’s working, but it’s still not perfect. Of special interest for me, my legal contact, Kyle-Beth Hilfer, just published a relevant paper with Collen IP discussing branding and IP usage in the Collaborative Economy, citing some of my work on the subject.

The Uber NYE accident is a landmark case. While I’m not suggesting anyone in this case is a jerk, on NYE a few weeks ago, a young child was struck by an Uber driver and killed; the family injured. There’s uncertainty, as the driver was an Uber driver, but was in-between rides and didn’t have a paying customer in his car. Furthermore, many groups could be liable, including the city, the driver, the drivers insurance, the family or Uber themselves. This is a landmark case and will set precedent on future incidents.

The crowd will develop its own insurance products. Expect a crowd-designed and crowd-funded insurance product to emerge that covers individuals as they traverse the world in in a sharing and access lifestyle, one that protects both the buyer and seller for this P2P transaction economy. We might also see a hybrid version where a traditional insurance company resells their coverage to an organization in the crowd, creating a “pan-coverage” plan. Imagine how two-way ratings could actually reduce your liability and, therefore, your rates in a crowd-funded insurance plan.

Photo used under creative common license by Mark Atwood

Sharing Is Not New

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Sharing is not new, we’ve been doing it since we assembled into primitive tribes.

A few months ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to an insurance company in Iowa. They were intrigued by my focus on the Collaborative Economy (sharing economy, maker movement, co-innovation). We had a lively conversation, and they shared with me, “Jeremiah, we love what you’re doing, but it’s not that new! In the Midwest we’ve been sharing for hundreds of years. People share their farms, their land, their time, their crops, and their equipment. You see, it’s just called being a good neighbor.”

They made an excellent point. Sharing isn’t new. It’s the earliest form of behavior necessary likely born out of safety and prosperity of the individual. The axiom is true that “No man is an island.” We may be able to survive for a short while alone, but we cannot prosper without the community available in families, tribes, towns and cities and other groups. Sharing enables us to minimize the individual risk while allowing the community to yield greater benefits than those available to an isolated few. So, what’s different now? Aha! Excellent question!

Technology has enabled sharing to happen at greater scale and speed than ever before.  (I’m paraphrasing my friend Deb Schultz). 

“How is that?” you may ask. Location-based sensors, for example, help us to identify and track idle resources. Some call this “the internet of things.” Mobile devices and location-enabled apps help us to find and identify where those resources may be. I’m talking about iPhones and Androids. Mobile payment systems enable us to leave our wallets in our back pocket as become accustomed to the benefits of pre-paying by using apps on our mobile devices. Social graphs from Facebook and Twitter, along with other ratings and reviews systems, help us to find people we know and trust, who are in a position to offer us goods that we need. More powerful computers have emerged that can see this giant “Mesh” and make sense of it in the blink of an eye.

Those Midwest executives at that insurance agency were right! Sharing isn’t new, it’s a natural, human behavior. But now, augmented by new technologies like sensors, mobile devices, payment systems, social networks and powerful computer systems, we can share at far greater scale and speed.

Sharing isn’t new. It’s natural. Which is why it works so well. It’s just about being a good neighbor.

Except that now, aided by technology, we can be a good neighbor to strangers.

Image used within Creative Commons license by Wlodi