04 May 2015

The sharing economy and the businesses it is disrupting

The impact that the likes of Uber and Airbnb have had on traditional business has been huge. These peer-to-peer business networks, or “sharing economy” businesses, if you prefer, have disrupted the traditional models they have competed against, providing customers with alternative and inexpensive services with relatively minimal work from the provider to set them up.

Rather than fulfilling the service itself, the organisation behind a peer-to-peer business simply sets up a platform that other people then use to buy or sell products and services themselves. In some ways it resembles a classifieds system, whereby an individual puts something up for sale (to use Uber as an example, their services as a driver), and the customer buys that service direct from the driver.

Uber is often used as the poster child for success of this model, but there are many other sharing economy businesses out there, covering just about every product and service you could imagine buying or selling. Below we’ve listed four of the most interesting examples of p2p business networks beyond Uber and Airbnb of p2p, and how they’re having an impact on their related industries.

Skillshare – http://www.skillshare.com

With Skillshare, anyone who has a particular skill or knowledge base can sign up as a “teacher.” They’ll build video lessons and create projects, and then people interested in learning about that skill can sign up and participate in the virtual class. While universities need not worry about the disruption that Skillshare is bringing to education or the quality of the information shared through it, community colleges and online learning resources may find it difficult to compete with the breadth and depth of educational content that Skillshare is rapidly building up.

Freelancer – www.freelancer.com

For people in need of specific skills, but on a freelance basis, Freelancer is here to help. People who need a website designed, a mobile app developed, or blog posts completed, can post the task on the website, and people who are interested in completing the task enter bids for it. The person that posted the task can then choose the person he/ she wants to work with, and the project is then completed for the agreed-upon fee. While quality control is always going to be an issue when using websites such as this one (you get what you pay for is a proverb entirely relevant to Freelancer), for people that simply want a project completed the cheapest and quickest way possible, it’s hard to look past this site as a disruptive alternative to traditional methods of sourcing talent.

Lending Club – https://www.lendingclub.com/

Currently unavailable in Australia, Lending Club is one that financial services institutions will want to watch closely if it does come this way. Essentially with Lending Club you apply for a loan, and the technology works out (based on factors such as your credit rating) what the terms of the loan should be. Then other people can invest in your loan, which will then benefit them through repayments. Cutting the banks and other financial institutions out of the loans process, while still giving people access to the kind of large sums they might want to borrow could prove to be very disruptive to one of the key areas of business for financial institutions over the long term.

Kickstarter – www.kickstarter.com

Perhaps the most famous p2p network beyond Uber, Kickstarter allows people with great ideas to get the funding to realise them. They post a project (that would end in a product, from a book to a watch to a video game) and people who are interested in that idea can pledge a small amount of money to it. Based on the amount pledged, those people would then earn ‘rewards’, whether that be a ‘thank you’ note, through to a copy of the finished product, or even an all-expenses paid trip to meet the creators if they pledge a lot of money to the project. As an alternative to trying to source venture capital or risky loans for smaller projects and startups, Kickstarter is giving many the opportunity to get their work off the ground.