The Economist has an article on the rise of the sharing economy. There is no doubt this is unleashing new business models and on campus as well. One of GMU’s young entrepreneurs is currently running a hookah delivery service that is based on shared use of the pipes rather than individuals owning their own. What other items/services can be shared across campus?
Rachel Botsman, the author of a book on the subject, says the consumer peer-to-peer rental market alone is worth $26 billion. Broader definitions of the sharing economy include peer-to-peer lending though cash is hardly a spare fixed asset or putting a solar panel on your roof and selling power back to the grid though that looks a bit like becoming a utility. And it is not just individuals: the web makes it easier for companies to rent out spare offices and idle machines, too. But the core of the sharing economy is people renting things from each other.
Such “collaborative consumption” is a good thing for several reasons. Owners make money from underused assets. Airbnb says hosts in San Francisco who rent out their homes do so for an average of 58 nights a year, making $9,300. Car owners who rent their vehicles to others using RelayRides make an average of $250 a month; some make more than $1,000. Renters, meanwhile, pay less than they would if they bought the item themselves, or turned to a traditional provider such as a hotel or car-hire firm. It is not surprising that many sharing firms got going during the financial crisis. And there are environmental benefits, too: renting a car when you need it, rather than owning one, means fewer cars are required and fewer resources must be devoted to making them.