The Sharing Economy speaks up: “I Was ‘Sharing’ Before It Was Cool.”

A story about the Sharing Economy in her own voice. In first person.

Note: Yes, it’s a her. Just kidding. The author is learning a lot about how to apply the Sharing Economy principles into a business, winning and losing battles.
I wrote this story for the fun of it, as well as for connecting with people who are really practicing ‘Sharing’ besides the buzz (buzz = shitloads of content on the “is and isn’ts”, “do’s and don’ts”, etc.)

Hey. I’m sure you heard about me, but I’d like to introduce myself. Actually, the whole purpose of this is to introduce myself unpretentiously.

TL;DR. People take me as a business model, which is but one aspect of me. I’m not a product either. You can build a massive platform, inject chunks of cash to move the crowds into it: but I don’t happen without my core values.

I’m a way of exchanging value based on trust, believing in abundance and aiming to optimize resources while maximizing gains for everyone.

Just Unburdening Myself a Bit

Recently I got so talked about, it’s annoying. I partially enjoy the fame, it’s just that I’m a bit too old for all the talking — which might surprise you as people call me “new”.

I’m doing my best to fit in and catch up with today’s slangs, use hashtag and stuff. I even like the nickname they coined: “Sharing Economy”.

What I don’t like as much is people talking as if they “owned” me. I just read an article about myself as the “new” sharing economy, while someone else wrote about what I am and what I’m not and I’m like “hello?”.

I’m even being criticized by people who I never met, nor dealt with before (seems like their laws don’t match my lifestyle).

I got “evangelists” too. I find it “chic”, but I gotta center or my ego gets out of hands — and it suddenly becomes a bubble, it explodes and then (you know) it’s all my fault. Let’s avoid this to happen.

Tell the blog-academics to stop. I am the simplest thing that ever was — and I’ve been around for a while.

Before humans even coined the term Economy, I was Sharing. #brag

Let’s get it straight. I’m a model of value exchange which is trust-based, community driven and that reinforces sustainability.

But before I go into details, here is what I want to talk about:

  1. Why The Buzz
  2. My Story. A Long, Long Time Ago…
  3. Down to It. How Do I Work.

Let’s go through it.

1. Why The Buzz

I understand why people think I’m new.

I just got maximized (as everything did) when technology enabled millions of people to connect in higher speed. Many people didn’t know me before, due to different reasons, mainly a vertical structure of everything.

Will talk about it in “My Story”.

So I kinda see what the hype is all about. Spotlight on me thanks to the fact:

First. I just gained weight (0r scale). We always get attention for that.

Second. I don’t depend anymore on geography (although I a generally working based on geolocation), since communities have grown beyond borders, based on shared needs, interests and/or values.

Last, but not least. My enablers (so called “Sharing Economy Businesses”) became million dollar babes. Airbnb, Zipcar, you name it.

Long story short: I’ve always been there, but thanks to Internet and to a rising need of resources optimization (a switch in our conscience level) I’m spreading faster.

2. My Story. A Long, long time ago…

I’m around since the early days when you’d share stuff with our caveman peeps, or (more recently) when neighbors would borrow a ladder or a cup of sugar from you.

I’m even the reason why you even survived as a species. Tell about it later. Sorry I get a bit anthropological sometimes. #brag

A Brief Story of How You Got Me Wrong

Last generations people grew a bit individualistic. #justsaying

Architecture shows that.

People moved to big cities, society got compartmentalized in tiny rooms and laws to protect the individual property are conceived in the very center of our up-to-date economic logic. Places where people meet are as “open and collaborative” as malls: huge consumption complexes. #yesbutno

People accumulated stuff, individual stuff, disposable, single-serving. The more you were certain to be the ONLY ons using it, the best.

Things were underutilized.

Abundance was misused.

Environmental issues started popping up in front of our noses and humans noticed like: “Ops. That individualistic approach doesn’t quite work in a long term”.

Still. The individual rights (freedom, well-being and property) were a step forward, we wanted to keep it. But how to align it with sustainability?

What if people could share resources, valuables, properties, while getting some sort of value out of it, willingly? What if sharing was also an evolutionary trait?

The idea of sharing wasn’t new. That’s why it resonated for so many people.

FYI, sharing is a trait which enabled humans to survive as a species, also defining the social bonds which structured your communities. Alone, a human wouldn’t stand a chance against other beasts with advantageous teeth and claws (you poor naked primate). Just google it: food+sharing+human+evolution []

Told you I’d get all anthropological. Thing is, before, we’d share amongst communities, strong sense of trust — just that, now, communities have grown.

Fast forward, today, I got people rhyming “caring vs. sharing” (how cheesy is that?) to say how I’m exploiting Airbnb hosts but, my dear. These guys are exchanging value. Idleness for money and connections, willingly.

Looking back again, in Ancient Greece sharing space so important, there was a moral/religious obligation to hospitality — to literally share their homes and host a humble traveler as god. Like. People. Shared. Houses. With Strangers. Wow. It’s like Couchsurfing is the new theoxenia. Google it. []

Airbnb just found a way (smart) to add money to the equation, keeping the community/trust aspect of it. #goAirbnb

Just the other day I read someone arguing about my relationship with Uber — let them use me, get over it — it’s OK, drivers are getting value from their idle cars and time via UberX. You better regularize it fast so everyone wins.

But I understand.

They got the best intentions to protect the individual.

The world wasn’t ready to see me happening in scale. Laws weren’t prepared. Old systems are outdated and feel threatened, but I know (better than anyone) that trust comes from knowledge, which is why I’m speaking up.

Still. The innovation in the tech-based platforms mentioned above is not in the act of sharing, but in:

1) making it in scale with money exchange involved;

2) enabling millions of people to connect and share through it;

3) a business model where the platform collects some sort of fee from it.

Else. It’s not the “Sharing Economy”. It’s just that thing we always did, that’s how you humans roll. Or at least how you should

3. Down to It. How Do I Work.

As I mentioned before.

I’m a way of exchanging value based on trust, believing in abundance and aiming to optimize resources while maximizing gains for everyone.

While I do thrive with a “seamless booking experience” and a solid business model, these are second tier of the pyramid which base are my values, which are the ones who define product (tech) and business.

Not the other way around.

I have one core principle which sound stupid, but is fundamental. If you don’t agree with that principle, very unlikely that we will hangout:

#1 Principle: I love people. I believe humans are genuinely are good.

Which means that control-freaks, mini-Napoleons (authoritarianish people) aren’t in my squad; they generally cut the flow. I like it community-driven, and ruled by one element: trust.

My values are simple. I am all about:

Freedom. It must be free willing and mutually beneficial. You share because you want to — you get value from it.

Abundance. Believing in goodness existing and that flowing assets move us towards more abundance: by sharing, we all have more.

Trust. There’s no way I share if I don’t trust. Which is why I’m community based, and driven, example: quality regulation often happens through community reviews.

Connectivity. It happens directly amongst the interested parties: no middle-man, but an open platform which allows people to find opportunities and communicate through it to perform an exchange.

Optimization. Building efficiency by cutting idleness cost, turning it into opportunity. Converting under-utilized assets into valuable to others, while giving back monetary (or other kinds of) value to the owner.

Final Thoughts

I’m not a product, nor a business model. I’m not Airbnb, nor Uber(X), nor any P2P platform. These guys succeeded in practicing those values through a good product.

You can’t just ask people to trust, but you can reinforce it through features, as well by setting (implicit or explicit) incentives.

I’m not that “new” thing. I’m the way humans used to do things before things got complicated, now made easy again through technology.

Well engineered products and solid business models will reinforce the why people would use you and practice ‘Sharing’. Still — you must start from the community. First, get to know all your players, users, suppliers, and build a trustworthy space which inspires abundance and gives them the freedom to exchange value.

I’ll probably show up. And people will start sharing.