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Pioneers of the shared economy


(Editor's note: This is the second of three parts. Read Part 1 and Part 3. )

Some of the early pioneers of the sharing economy were Zipcar, founded in 2000, and later Airbnb, launched in 2008. Both happened before the term “sharing economy” was even invented. 

Later, the concept was popularized by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in What’s Mine is Yours (2010) and Lisa Gansky in The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing (2012).

Here are some of the key players who have emerged in this space. The first six are car-sharing services:

  • Zipcar – Industry pioneer Zipcar has calculated that one of their cars replaces 15 private cars. They now have 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countries and were recently acquired by the Avis Budget Group for $500 million.
  • Uber – Launched in 2010 in San Francisco and started as a black car service. It then added SUVs and compact cars, and is now in 25 countries.
  • Sidecar – Launched in 2012 in San Francisco, Sidecar’s smartphone app matches everyday people in their own car with people nearby for shared rides. They now employ thousands of drivers in the Bay Area.
  • Lyft – A ride sharing service for people to find rides from “regular” people who have a car. The service only takes “donations” because it is not a taxi service.
  • RelayRides – Google Ventures-backed RelayRides enables people to borrow cars from neighbors. They can rent the cars by the hour or by the day. If the car has OnStar, users can open the car automatically through a mobile app. This service is now available nationwide.
  • Getaround – As a peer-to-peer car sharing company, Getaround lets people borrow cars from others. Owners who are out of town can also leave their car with Getaround, which will rent out the car, clean it and take care of it. Getaround cars are covered by a $1 million insurance policy from Berkshire Hathaway. It currently operates in San Francisco, Austin, Portland, San Diego, and Chicago.

Other Sharing Services

  • Lending Club – Forget houses, cars, and dogs, Lending Club’s peer-to-peer network will help you get cold hard cash. It is cheaper than credit cards for borrowers and provides better interest rates than savings accounts for investors.
  • Fon – Startup Fon enables people to share some of their home Wi-Fi network in exchange for getting free Wi-Fi from anyone of the 7 million people in Fon’s network.
  • Poshmark – People buy or sell their clothing through Poshmark’s mobile app. They can also display their virtual closets and find friends who have similar styles.
  • DogVacay – Instead of dropping your dog at a kennel when you’re gone, these are real homes with real pet owners who will take good care of Spot and Brunno for you. It’s cheaper than a kennel and gives dogs a more comfortable place to stay
  • Task Rabbit – Founded in 2008, TaskRabbit is a mobile marketplace for anyone looking to hire people to do jobs and tasks, ranging from delivery, to handyman to office help. All the “rabbits” are interviewed and have their backgrounds checked before being listed in the system. Its workforce, now over 4,000, includes students, unemployed workers, retirees and stay-at-home moms.
  • Airbnb – Since Airbnb launched in 2008 in San Francisco, about 4 million people have now used the site. Last year it topped 10 million guest-stays in more than 190 countries worldwide.
  • Cannabeds – Launched in Colorado where marijuana is now legal, Cannabeds is an Airbnb clone focused specifically on places to stay where vacationers can kick back and enjoy a little recreational weed. 
  • Boatbound is billing itself as the Airbnb of boat rentals with a nationwide network that allows you to reserve a boat in any city with a nearby lake. - 
  • Zaarly is a peer-to-peer marketplace for people to provide services for others. Zaarly focuses on creating “stores” for sellers to market their services, from home repair to iPhone repairs.
  • Spinlister – Rent a bike from a neighbor, someone nearby, or any organization with too many bikes.
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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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