The Sharing Economy — On-Demand vs. Collaborative Consumption

I am amazed by the notion of the Sharing Economy. How incredible is it that such an economic movement created a social one as well? Out of curiosity, I wanted to get a better grasp of what the Sharing Economy is all about, so I decided to do a little blind research into it just to see what I could come up with.

My initial plan was to just get a big-picture of what’s going on within the Sharing Economy as well as discover some key-players to keep an eye on for the coming years, but after a week of searching for some relevant information and getting a little sidetracked, I think what’s preventing me from getting a hold of what to look for is a clear definition of the type of startup I am looking for under this theme. “On-Demand” and “Collaborative Consumption” are titles that have unfortunately been grouped under The Sharing Economy, and then abandoned to mingle together in a sort of forced symbiotic relationship. Under the umbrella of “Sharing Economy,” they are pressed together by SV-mentalities yelling “JUST BE TOGETHER!” Let’s take a step back and briefly (and relatively loosely) define them with regard to startups separately.

On-Demand — When a service or good is needed, and a company is able to provide it quickly with few pain-points.
Collaborative Consumption — When a local co-citizen has a good that is not being used and is willing to loan-out or rent it to a co-citizen that would be willing to pay for that good.

You could argue that a “good” of collaborative consumption could be a co-citizen’s time, in that they would be willing to go and do something, but I think that’s the prime culprit of confusion, because it bleeds into On-Demand. Also: What kind of “collaborative consumption” is purchasing someone’s time? Time is being collaboratively consumed by everyone, always. Or are co-citizens willing to allow others to buy their own time from them? /Philosophy
I’m going to say that Collaborative Consumption also means that the owner of whatever is to be consumed can be doing something else while a co-citizen consumes it. There. Simple. So that means no Uber or Lyft. With that being said, here are five startups in each of these categories that would be interesting to watch over the next couple of years.

On-Demand Startups:

Collaborative Consumption Startups:

  • Spinlister — Rent skis, snowboards, bikes, and surfboards.
  • Fon — Share wifi
  • Getaround — Rent cars from people nearby
  • Getable — Rent construction tools and equipment
  • Pley — Rent Lego Sets

You could probably argue that they all overlap these categories. I don’t think arguing that they overlap really helps much though. So next time you think of the Sharing Economy, be sure to acknowledge the subtle distinction between collaborative consumption and on-demand.

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