GoCambio’s Comprehensive Guide to the Sharing Economy
Something incredible is underway that is transforming the way in which we do business on a scale unparalleled. It’s breaking down borders and building global communities by connecting people from all over the world. It’s helping to breathe life back into discarded objects and spaces. It’s environmentally-friendly, it’s cost-effective (sometimes even free) and it’s expanding its reach with every passing day.
What is this amazing phenomenon?
It’s called the sharing economy, and you’ve probably taken part in it without even realising. Think Airbnb, Uber and Spotify. If you’ve used any of these companies then you’re a part of the sharing economy!
We decided to put together this detailed guide to what the sharing economy is, how it works and where we fit in. Read on to learn more about how it is shaking up the way people travel and do business.
What is the sharing economy?
There are a lot of terms tossed around on the Internet, including collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer sharing, peer economy, collaborative economy,and a whole host of others. We’re going to keep it simple by sticking to the umbrella term sharing economy. In a nutshell, the sharing economy is about connecting people’s needs with other people’s haves, something that the Internet has made exceptionally easy to do.
For example, Airbnb connects travellers that need accommodation during their travels with people that have a spare room in their house or apartment. Uber connects people who need a ride home with those who have a spare seat in their car. Instead of trying to convince you that you need something new (like a pair of shoes, that designer handbag, the latest iPhone), sharing economy platforms make use of what people already have, connecting those that need something with those who can meet their needs. In other words, it’s all about connecting people and utilising what one person has to help many others.
The sharing economy embraces a whole variety of different sectors and every company operates slightly differently. What they have in common is a disinterest in the idea of individual ownership and a desire to increase the life and maximise the usage of goods and services through processes of reuse, exchange and collaboration. Here are some examples of some companies in the industry. You’ll find examples of peer-to-peer carsharing, music streaming, second-hand goods exchange, holiday accommodation, and a whole host of others.
Entertainment: Spotify, SoundCloud, Shareapass
Travel/Hospitality: GoCambio (of course!), Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Vayable, DogVacay, HomeExchange, NightSwapping
Tools: OpenShed, NeighborGoods
Professional Services: Elance, fiverr
Fashion: BuyMyWardrobe, eBay
These platforms are just the tip of the iceberg. New sharing tools are popping up left right and centre, and improved GPS technologies on mobile phones mean that apps developed by companies can help people participate in real-time sharing at the tap of a button.
Need something delivered in the space of an hour? Postmates’ logistics and delivery platform will make it happen.
Need somewhere to store all your worldly belongings while you cambio around the world? Startups such as Roost are paving the way in peer storage.
How does the sharing economy work?
Traditional business operates on the idea of individual ownership of goods and services: you pay someone a sum of money, and you receive a product or service in exchange that is yours to keep for life, even if you won’t use it 24/7. You might spend thousands on a brand new car that you drive to work every day but which sits in a carpark or garage 90% of the time. It might be all yours, but as it depreciates in value over time you’re not really maximising your use of that car.
The sharing economy works a bit differently. Unlike the capitalist system we live in now that emphasises the need to constantly buy new things and upgrade to the latest new product, the sharing economy asks, “hang on a minute, can we get more use out of this thing before we throw it in the bin?” It decreases the need to constantly buy new things that will not be used. It is challenging and disrupting traditional business.
The sharing economy asks, “hang on a minute, can we get more use out of this thing before we throw it in the bin?”
By encouraging reuse, sharing and exchanging, resources are optimised and utilised to their full potential. Use is made of formerly unused objects and spaces. We collect a lot of stuff these days. Think about all the novels, juicing machines, gardening tools, empty car seats, bicycles, office desks, toys and clothes that you aren’t using 24 hours every single day. What if you instead chose to share, borrow or rent out these underutilised items and spaces to other people instead of letting them collect dust? The tools would get used as they are intended, other people wouldn’t need to fork out bucketloads to buy brand new things they’ll only use sporadically, and you might even get the chance to get a bit of pocket money. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
By encouraging reuse, sharing and exchanging, resources are optimised and used to their full potential.
All this sharing and optimisation of resources is great for the environment by reducing wastage. A Cleantech Group study found that in a single year, Europeans using Airbnb saved 1,100 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. They found that using Airbnb “results in significant reduction in energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste, and encourages more sustainable practices among both hosts and guests”. Now that’s pretty fantastic!
The concept of sharing in itself is certainly not new. The sharing economy returns us to how business used to work way back when we were still hunters and gatherers in the wilderness and bartered and traded with others. Even before the sharing economy took off, people attended garage sales, borrowed from their neighbours and families carpooled on the way to football games. Sharing as a concept is as old as human existence. The difference is that now we have the Internet, which enables us to borrow, buy, share, exchange and trade instantaneously with people anywhere in the world. Sharing with a single click. It has never been so easy.
How big is the sharing economy?
We don’t live in a sharing economy just yet. Traditional businesses still dominate the global economic system. But the sharing economy is growing exponentially, and the travel and hospitality industry is one sector where it has taken off. Airbnb launched in 2008 and according to Forbes is now valued at over $25 billion, with over 2 million listings worldwide. Couchsurfing boasts over 11 million members in 150,000 cities around the world. PwC estimated that the sharing economy was worth $15 billion in 2013 and predicted it to rise to $335 billion by 2025, equaling the value of the traditional rental economy. And these companies and others are expanding with every passing day.
How does GoCambio fit into all of this?
If Airbnb is about sharing space, and Couchsurfing about sharing couches, GoCambio is about sharing skills. As a traveller you barter your skills for meals and board. As a host, you offer your home to someone in exchange for learning something new. It’s knowledge in exchange for hospitality.
GoCambio is proud to be part of the sharing economy and to be shaking up the way the travel industry operates. Our aim is to disrupt, innovate and do things differently. We develop new ways of doing things instead of following the crowd. We think outside the box instead of conforming to the way that things have ‘always been done’.
Our aim is to disrupt, innovate and do things differently.
We believe that people shouldn’t have to pay to stay somewhere if they have something to share, and that learning something new should be free. We’re all about exchanging skills, allowing people to travel for free and make deep connections along the way. Why should someone need to spend their life’s savings on a hotel room when they can stay at no cost with locals and have a more authentic experience?
So instead of forking out hundreds of dollars to take a language class, you can host a traveller in your home and learn Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, German, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Polish, or one of the many other languages our Guests speak free of charge.
Want to learn some other skills? We’ve got Guests who can cook, design, paint, dance, play an instrument and help you get fit. And instead of paying to stay somewhere when you’re on the road, you can stay for free in return for teaching someone something that you know. Whether you want to travel to France, South Africa, the United States, Australia or Peru, we’ve got Hosts willing to offer you a warm welcome and introduce you to their culture. All you have to do is spend some time with them. Stay free. Learn free. That’s our philosophy.
Stay free. Learn free. That’s our philosophy.
Interested in learning more?
We encourage you to think critically about what you read, watch and listen to. There are different views on the sharing economy and its future prospects. We’ve put together a list of online materials below as a starting point for those of you who’d like to learn more about how the sharing economy works and we encourage you to take part in the ongoing discussion about the ideas discussed in this article in the comments.
Rachel Botsman, The Case for Collaborative Consumption
Vision Critical, The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy
Dave Roos, How the Sharing Economy Works
Jim Pickell, Top Myths of the Sharing Economy
Jeremiah Owyang, Collaborative Economy Honeycomb
About the Author: Clarissa Hirst is a Content Writer and Editor at GoCambio. A born-and-bred Australian, Clarissa currently calls Sweden home. She’s travelled to over 40 countries, loves learning foreign languages, and her passion is inspiring others to learn about and explore the world around them. She hopes to one day speak fluent Russian and ride the Trans-Siberian railway. You can learn more about Clarissa on her website!