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By André Roque

From ZipCar to Uber, from Airbnb to Couchsurfing – we’ve all seen the rise of the peer-to-peer economy, and many of us have made use of it to earn or save extra money.

 But as we move towards a skill-and-asset-swapping culture, there are challenges ahead. So can the sharing economy survive? Or will it sink?

 

If we look at some of the biggest names in the asset-swapping game, Uber and Airbnb, we can see that they have already been struggling with regulatory hurdles. These hurdles come from governments that are still trying to understand the implications of this new landscape, and are busy creating legislation aimed at protecting their assets as well as the public’s.

For those who have enjoyed the benefits of Airbnb and Uber etc., asset sharing may feel like second nature – but the wider landscape is still fragile and yet to be explored. As is evident by the Financial Times’ Sharing Economy Summit, where the most informed brains came together to point out the possible pitfalls and concerns for those navigating this new marketplace.

 

Fairness

A lot of sharing economy-reliant companies are (in theory) just connecting those with a skill (I can drive and need some extra money) with those who require that skill (I have a little money and need to get somewhere by car). But how can a company that’s just connecting people with services they require be sure their labour is in a secure and properly benefitted working environment? Zero-hours contracts aside, there are concerns that a female cleaner, for instance, can be denied employment status, and therefore maternity pay and other benefits, despite working for a single company.

There are companies already working to address this issue of fairness. hassle.com for example, has strict rules around providing the London living wage to their staff. In fact, the platform’s CEO Alex Depledge says that their ultimate aim is to destroy the black markets that have been exploiting the housekeeping labour force for so long. As self-employment via online platforms becomes more common, it’s likely that governments will need to step in to protect workers.

As always, while some people are negatively affected, others can benefit from the increased demand for supporting services. It’s fair to say that more Uber drivers will mean a rise in demand for car cleaning services in the same area. A higher number of Airbnb properties will lead to a greater need for ‘on demand’ cleaning services. Homeit, a remote access provider used mostly by short term property rental hosts, is an example of one company that has spotted this correlation. It has just started to integrate cleaning services into the app, so that as you accept a reservation, you can then arrange for your property to be cleaned in time for the guests.

 

Trust issues

Uber has suffered massive knocks to its reputation and subsequently promised more rigorous screening processes for hiring drivers, and in these periods of mistrust it’s the traditional services that people will go back to - in this case, black cabs.

The whole idea of a sharing economy relies on utopian values, and on the delicate balance of no one abusing the opportunities it provides. We need to trust the cleaner we’re letting into our house. In the past, this was based on personal recommendation; now it comes in the form of a trusted platform. In theory, if a guest in your property damages something, you rate them badly and they can even be banned from services like Airbnb. This helps hosts to rely on the platform.

There’s also the interaction with strangers. Travellers (and hosts) may not feel comfortable waiting around to speak with a stranger. This is of particular concern to minorities and LGBTQI customers. As a result, new companies are springing up to address some of these issues, for example, Homeit provides remote access for hosts and guest – so they need never meet, and no one is left hanging around outside waiting for their host or guest to appear.

 

Economic impacts

Very recently, hundreds of people came together at Los Angeles City Hall for a hearing on how a tourist destination like LA should regulate its short-term rental industry. Members of the local hotel worker union as well as HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb supporters, filled the room. The discussion was about the need for rules that place a 180-day cap on the time a room can be let during a single year. Other restrictions stated that hosts must live at the property they are renting. Discussions like these are happening all over the world, arguing that Airbnb rentals affect longer-term rental properties and increase the cost of living rent.

In Barcelona, the government is cracking down on illegal hosts who aren’t paying tax on their rental income. In 2015 Airbnb generated an economic impact of €740 million in that city alone.

 

In conclusion

For those of us intending to utilise the sharing economy while it’s still building up to the crest of its wave, the trials of property management, government legislation and host-wrangling could turn into a massive headache. And so, it’s the supporting platforms that are the most useful for streamlining that experience. In the short-term, the sharing economy is only set to get bigger as tech entrepreneurs come up with new and innovative ways to help us share our assets and make or save money – but in order for sharing to be the new norm, legislation and technology will need to change and develop to make the process simpler, fairer for workers, and safer for both hosts and users.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

André Roque is co-founder of Homeit, a remote access platform, that allows you to grant guests, tenants and tradespeople (cleaners, laundry, etc.) access to your property remotely. It integrates with short-term rental platforms and also recommends tested service providers in your area.  It is easy, fast, reliable and, most importantly, safe. Designed for the new sharing economy – Homeit is perfect for travellers and hosts using platforms like Airbnb.

 

See: https://www.homeit.io/en/ and https://www.seedrs.com/homeit

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/homeit.international/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/homeit

Twitter: https://twitter.com/homeit_pt

 

 

Every year we see more and more up and coming golden eggs in the tech sector, so we thought we’d bring you a quick round up of what to expect for 2017, authored by Ben Little, co-founder Fearlessly Frank.

From the Silicon Valley to our Silicon Roundabout here in East London, new tech businesses are launching daily, each with a huge ambition to replicate the success of recent companies before them. When someone describes their business as “It’s like Uber, only for [insert category]” or “AirBnB for [insert audience demographic]”, hidden in the description is “It’s going to be big”, because the truth is that it could be.

We live in a time full of opportunity: not since the industrial revolution has there been the right conditions for the ‘new’ to overpower the ‘old’ and for growth to be achieved with such amazing speed, as seen with companies like Uber and Airbnb. However, although the conditions are right, the truth is only one in thousands will achieve the success of these amazing businesses, making them very rare and quite fascinating. It’s not surprising we’ve begun calling them unicorns, because they are.

  1. Turo is the Airbnb of cars. Anyone who’s been through the hassle of renting a car will appreciate how Turo lets you rent a car wherever and whenever you want. But it’s also a business putting money in the pockets of car owners who don’t need their vehicle every day. 38% of urban residents could easily imagine living without a car, which makes sense since in major cities the cost of congestion to individual households is over $4000 a year. The fact remains though that cars are still incredibly useful at certain times, so peer-to-peer car sharing is surely the next big place for disruption in the automotive space. 2017 should be a big year for Turo.
  2. Everyone is talking about VR but these guys 8i are going deeper. We think there is a good chance they are going to make it onto the unicorn list this year. 8i specialises in volumetric human capturing and is building an agnostic platform for creators to build their own content on – so this is VR going beyond gaming. Co-founder Linc Gasking says it’s all about the human dimension. They’re from New Zealand but have expanded to LA and San Francisco. Looking forward to seeing them everywhere else in 2017.
  3. With all the news around the pressure the NHS is under, and Trump throwing out ObamaCare, is 2017 the year of the tech MD? Technology enabled healthcare solutions have been around for a while, but perhaps people are now more willing than ever to give them a go. Companies like Babylon Health promise to connect you with a doctor in minutes. With amazing AI and bot technology on the rise, people will be able to seek immediate healthcare advice at the touch of a button. It isn’t surprising that the NHS has been quick to partner with them: the BBC said it was “…as easy as ordering a cab on your phone”. Uber for your GP sounds like it has unicorn potential to me. The question will be how they take an idea like that to market. It won’t be cheap, but the upside could be a totally new way for people to seek the help they need.
  4. Vero: The unicorn club has never been complete without a social network or two, Snapchat being one with its recent IPO filing revealing that the company grew revenues by 600% to $404 million in 2016. But it’s an industry that’s growing up quickly. It’s strange to think that an industry only formed in the last two decades could be ripe for reinvention, but the big five - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, are no longer networks, loved and celebrated by the users, but instead are media channels structured to serve up intelligent advertising solutions for brands. Perhaps a percentage of the billions of us who use social media sites might well be interested in trying something new, where the user is put first and their experience and data is protected. The rapid introduction of Snapchat and Instagram into a market we all thought was saturated proves it’s possible. Some have recently tried and failed. Yubl, the social messaging platform that was like Snapchat combined with WhatsApp, had a hugely successful fundraise but sadly couldn’t sustain the investment needed to compete in a tough market. One contender we have been working with could however: the next generation social media platform Vero combines privacy with ease to create a strong user experience that also doesn’t require advertising to make it profitable and grow. It’s less of a media platform and back to the basics of a social network with all the makings of a unicorn… watch this space.
  5. Faradion: One thing holding back the entire smartphone industry is the electric battery. These guys in Sheffield recently picked up some investment that will help them scale. Perhaps Samsung’s $3.1B loss on exploding batteries will turn up at Faradion, who are 25% cheaper than current batteries. 2017 should be big for sodium-ion battery tech.

Entry to the Unicorn Club is getting harder. Imagine the next generation of companies existing on a tree of opportunity, the successful companies powering their way into the club have been the low hanging fruit. The next generation of unicorns are going to have to think bigger and aim higher.

The environment that has made start-up success so possible, has now entered the mainstream - big businesses know they need to innovate to survive. If these companies can adopt the behaviour of these successful startups, be willing to enter a parallel universe to try new things and keep both businesses a success - anything is possible.

When you hire well, be daring and have the resource and funds to do it, new insights and ideas can come from dab hands and entrenched brands.

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