It’s an unnaturally warm day in San Francisco, a pleasant breeze wafts in through an open window while the faint sound of traffic is drowned out by a oscillating fan. In the last hour, Chloe – a Zirtual Assistant – has seamlessly booked a client’s last minute travel itinerary for South by Southwest, scheduled 5 meetings for various people and coordinated in-person errands for an SF based client through TaskRabbit.
It’s sounds like multi-tasking, but it’s also collaborative consumption. Chloe handles several clients who assign various tasks throughout the day, she acts as a personal concierge to some and an executive assistant to others. This is all made possible by the sharing economy.
It’s something that we don’t think of as adults, especially busy professional ones, but the collaborative consumption trend is more popular than ever and it’s just getting started.
What is Collaborative Consumption?
Simply put it’s multiple people sharing one thing for social, environmental or financial reasons. It’s been around for a long time – think boarding houses in the 1850s – but only in more recent years has the trend been identified and actually lauded as a better way to live.
7 Ways Sharing Can Change Your Life
- No car = no insurance, no parking and no payment. For now this option is only available in larger cities but car sharing has been gaining popularity at a rapid clip ever since ZipCar went public and showed the world that this new business model could both save money for it’s users and make money for it’s investors. Since then other companies like GetAround, RelayRides and many more have been encouraging commuters to only use a car when they need one. These car sharing services include insurance, gas and of course – wheels – every time you need to get from point A to point B.
- Look fly for less. Whether you want to carry a new designer bag every month, or get a stylist to dress you for a fraction of their normal rates, there’s a sharing startup for that! Bag Borrow or Steal allows their members to carry a new designer bag each month, when they’re done they send it back and a new member uses it for the following month. This means hundreds of people can carry the same bag and get that warm, fuzzy “I’m carry a bag that’s worth more than you make in a month” feeling – for a fraction of the price. Trunk Club gives men access to a professional stylist who will send them a trunk of clothes specifically tailored to their style needs, they’re only charged for what they keep and get access to a stylist who would normally cost thousands.
- Shared meals. Wouldn’t a private cook be nice – but alas – who can afford one? Well, you, if you use Munchery or other services that provide personal chefs to make your meals and then drop off a grip of them to keep you satiated for the week.
- Live & let live. Airbnb is by far the most famous example of the new sharing economy, the site which lets you stay in various people’s homes for a variety of times is pioneering the collaborative consumption market and changing the way people think about “personal space”.
- Communal experiences. Enjoy a day on a yacht with a captain who will teach you the ropes or go on a midnight bar crawl with strangers when you purchase an experience through Vayable.
- Rent v. own. Become a surfer without owning a surfboard, cut down a tree without purchasing a chainsaw. The sharing economy also allows you to rent a variety of things that up until this point, seemed too small to just own. Getable is one startup that lets you rent just about anything from various people and stores in your area.
- Shared workspace. At Zirtual we have always shared our work place through subletting desks from larger companies or co-working spaces. We’re about to move into our 3rd space since we’re growing so much but each place we’ve worked at has been a unique experience where we were able to learn from a diverse group of people.
The Sharing Economy
Fast Company’s Danielle Sack’s wrote a wonderful article on collaborative consumption called the sharing economy which has helped propel forward the collaborative consumption movement by giving it a catchier, easier to spread name. But regardless of what you call this new trend there is significant data mounting that it’s here to stay and that it is becoming an integral part of the new economy we are stepping into as we begin to shake off the last few years of global recession.
Going forward you should look and see if there are ways you can use these concepts of sharing to improve your life, or the lives around you, whether it’s car pooling through ZipCar or building a business that helps minimize usage while maximizing the people it touches. I know that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with Zirtual.
If you read this and know of additional “sharing” type businesses or organizations that are out there I’d love it if you would comment with links to them in the comments section.