A spare room, empty chairs at the kitchen table & my car on weekends: the Sharing Economy fights the economic crisis

Jul 29, 2013
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The Sharing Economy

Say what you want about the sharing economy, but it’s having an impact on the economy – a tangible impact. The idea of unused stock, space, property or time is slowly disappearing, as those who are willing to commit to putting their spare X online are finding it easier and easier to monetize it. In 2012, I was renting out my Paris apartment about 2 weekends a month and covering half my rent (minus the cost of a train ride to somewhere in Europe for the weekend). Being flexible is paying off, and the Internet has gone from globalization straight down to hyper-localization and essentially bartering.

At what point will I be able to trade a night to sleep for my neighbor whose friends are in town for the ability to use their car in the future?

My bedroom is a hotel

As I said above, paying rent is no longer an issue, if you’re willing to be flexible on when you are in your apartment. Rent in SF, NYC, London & Paris might be high, but they are also respectively among the most visited cities in the world, and if you’re willing to, say, line up your business trips with people’s vacation times, then you can reduce your “empty apartment time” to zero. I recently tried Housetrip, a Balderton-, Accel and Index-backed startup which offers rentals, while I was in London – I stayed right in the center of London just above a business, who I imagine would have a much harder time renting out their excess space without such a platform.

My Kitchen is a restaurant

While you are home, why not fill that big table you’ve got for when guests are over by letting a few people eat with you. Admittedly, offers like VoulezVousDiner (recently featured in the New York Times) and Cookening seem more focused on the “eating experience” than on the profitability of the occasion, but take a look at the most expensive monthly expenditures that individuals have: food is right there in second place below rent. If making a meal for 6 that would normally be made for 2 means that I make back the money I spend on food, and I get to eat with neighbors, tourists, and interesting people, then why not!

Take my car for a day, why not two!

The recent crop-up of services like Drivy, Ouicar, and Buzzcar, which allow you to rent out cars from people nearby by the hour or day, has raised an interesting question in my head: can I buy a car and rent it out for more than the monthly payments? I spoke with Drivy CEO Paulin Dementhon, during France Digitale Day, who said that he bought a car just for the service, and while the numbers aren’t all there, he seemed content with the decision. It seems that if you already have a parking space in Paris (another commodity to be rented out), then you can essentially have a car at your disposal and rent it out the majority of the time without incurring costs. Of course, today, these services still lack a bit of automation – I know Buzzcar has some hardware in place, but others still require face-to-face interaction, and time is money.

Keeping everything Legal

Of course, the big question is around legality, and more importantly, insurance. Today, all of the above-mentioned services have insurance to back them up. Airbnb’s insurance is managed by the company itself, after a big scandal a few years back when a host’s apartment was trashed and all her things were stolen.

Nonetheless, the reality is that, while there are no laws around P2P and the Sharing Economy, these new services, new business models, and new opportunities are ahead of the law, and once we’ve had time to see what works, what doesn’t, and how it benefits the economy, law will catch up. It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission in this business, and during an economic crisis, I doubt the government is going to seek out anyone who’s trying to subsidize their rent in order to pay it, or punish someone for having guests over to dinner and charging them for said dinner.

photo via mashable