As we all begin to look forward to the Interactive section of South By Southwest in March, PSFK has identified five key trends that readers should be monitoring during the festival. One of these trends we have coined ‘Co-Sharing.’
Today, a growing number of people are trading items and favors between each other. Digital technology allows anyone to find an object or service they need, when they want it, where they want it. Rather than finding these products and services at retailers or from large corporations, these items are often found in the hands of other people—sometimes neighbors, sometimes like minds a great distance away.
To explore this idea further, we spoke with John Zimmer, Co-Founder and COO of social ride sharing service Zimride.
Everything and anything is being lent and traded. The product-service economy is growing to a level where a significant number of people are maximizing the use of their possessions by lending them out to other people through disintermediated channels. What do you think is driving the trend of ‘co-sharing’?
I believe that the co-sharing trend is growing quickly for three main reasons. First, there is a movement towards “efficiency through design.” Due to limitations of space and resources, our society is realizing that for continued growth, we must come up with more efficient solutions.
One great example of an inefficient but necessary system is our highway infrastructure. U.S. Highways are the largest public works project of all time at a cost of $425 billion. Every year, there are 2.3 billion long distance personal vehicle trips (over 50 miles) in America and these cars are traveling with 80% of their seats unoccupied. This leads to an immense amount of traffic that causes 16 million hours of lost productivity daily, which amounts to a staggering $80 billion annual cost to our economy.
The answer is not to expand the physical infrastructure of this system, but to make what we already have more efficient. To do this, we need an intelligently designed information infrastructure to increase vehicle occupancy, which would decrease traffic and travel time.
The second reason co-sharing has become a trend is that people have an innate desire to connect with others. Community is an essential part of any thriving society, and a strong and supportive community improves the quality of life for everyone involved. Now, Facebook’s social graph is allowing companies like Zimride to provide online services that allow people to go offline and build new meaningful relationships. We’ve had Zimriders who’ve fallen in love, met a new best friend, or made a career change because of a fresh perspective from their rideshare buddy.
Lastly, there are very near term financial, social and environmental pressures helping ‘co-sharing’ services thrive. The recent economic downturn has forced individuals to re-look at the highest costs in their lives. The number one cost to the average American family is housing at an average of $17,000 each year followed by transportation pulling in at $8,500 a year. Airbnb is providing people with an opportunity to turn their largest cost into a large revenue opportunity. Similarly at Zimride, a driver can earn $200 selling the 3 back seats on a round-trip drive they are already taking from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I believe it is these high costs and large subsequent revenue opportunities that is causing the early peer-to-peer disruption to occur in the housing and transportation markets. Companies and individuals are realizing that sharing helps us build a desirable future while providing one of the best solutions to our economic and environmental crisis.
Co-Sharing raises the overall value of the entire community of members by offering more choice, experience and opportunities that meet an ever changing set of expectations and needs. In your opinion, what are the next areas we could see big change in through peer-to-peer collaboration?
Following housing and transportation, I believe we will continue to see more peer-to-peer exchange in entertainment and education. All signs point to Apple opening up TV channels to the masses in the same way they’ve done for mobile apps. In this sense, the ‘Co-Sharing’ trend will also overlap with The Me-TV Trend.
Education is also seeing large changes enabled by ‘co-sharing’ with companies like Skillshare and Udemy building platforms for anyone to teach or discover unique classes. In the next few years, it will be hard to imagine life without peer-to-peer collaboration.
What talks and events should PSFK readers be looking out for in Austin in they are interested in continuing to follow the ‘Co-Sharing’ trend?
They’ll be speaking at this panel: The Airbnb of Anything: The Growth of P2P Markets, Mar 13, 12.30pm
Also check out Shareable’s Share Austin! Party: Share Austin! – Shareable’s SXSW Party, Mar 12, 5pm