The Sharing Economy

Your house, yesterday. Probably.
Your house, yesterday. Probably.

The ‘Sharing Economy’ is disrupting established industries and sending huge, powerful incumbents into a tizzy. Uber and AirBnB have shaken the taxi and hotel sectors, shifting power, control and profits from the RadioCabs and Hiltons of this world and into the hands of ordinary citizens armed with nothing more than a smartphone and a mobile data plan.

The question on everyone’s lips is: which industry will be disrupted by the Sharing Economy next?

A couple of years ago, I was in Portland, Oregon, for meetings with some colleagues. One lunchtime, our discussion diverged from work topics to an issue plaguing our home-lives, an issue common to both the US and UK: the reduction in bin-pickup frequency.

It’s a hot topic.

Dude, Where’s My Trash?

We tossed around some ideas to solve our overflowing bins issues, to solve the problems caused by local authorities switching from weekly to two-weekly pick-ups, and to solve that awkward situation we have all faced: that middle-of-the-night walk of shame, bin-bag over shoulder, roaming the streets like a crazed, ferral cat to find a neighbour’s bin with a bit of space left in it to deposit last night’s curry leftovers and beer bottles.

What does this have to do with the Sharing Economy?

A lightbulb lit: why not create a location-aware, social app to help out? Share My Trashcan was born, $5 per bag, with a $1 kick-back to us, it scales and is simple. But then one of our team mentally cycled through a Lean Startup build-measure-learn cycle and developed the concept, discovering that communities can come together to buy a shared dumpster, which would provide even more space (some of which could be shared with other communities!) and would also be picked up weekly.

Share My Trashcan was dead, long live Share My Dumpster!

Later in the day (after doing some actual work) we revisited the idea and the real, Lean, magic happened: we pivoted. 

The ages of ideas

Every new world-changing idea goes through three main stages: first-movers and fragmentation, convergence and standardisation and, finally, curation. You can see this trend throughout history in car manufacture, personal computer design, aerospace, firearms and even software. The Sharing Economy is at stage 1: Uber and AirBnB are great, but they don’t talk to eachother (yet). There is no common language for them to exchange data; the fundamental irony is that the Sharing Economy is rubbish at sharing information.

So we decided to think about how Share My Dumpster might make the leap to Stage 2,:convergence and standardisation, and an all-to-common workflow presented itself, which, for now, is unfortunately still pretty manual.

Introducing Seth, he’s probably on a gap year

We’ve all been there, you’ve leased your sofa out to a world-traveling stranger through AirBnB or CouchSurfing and, during a during a vigorous session of Trivial Pursuit beer-pong, your couch-bothering temporary room-mate slips on a dice, bangs their head on your hand-carved, koa wood coffee table (from Etsy) and sadly it’s game-over for Mr Backpack.

What do you do?

Obviously you’re an important pillar of the local community, certainly too important to be associated with such a tragic event, and so you need to hide the evidence.

You pick up your smartphone and order a chainsaw off tool sharing app, Share My Toolbox, and, thanks to Shyp (it’s like FedEx but spelled wrong), the machine arrives within the hour via drone. A few hours of careful chain-sawing later, you have several disturbingly-weighty bin bags neatly tied up and ready to disperse around the city. But where? And how?

It’s all in the knees

Of course it’s time to put that Uber gift card you got for your birthday to good use. Soon, and carefully timed so they don’t see each-other, a stream of Ubers arrive and take away a bag each, heading out to different parts of the city. While they are all en route, you fire up the Share My Dumpster app and reserve space in several dumpsters, ready for your Uber drivers to arrive and deposit their cargo.

And thus the Sharing Economy saves the day again. The hassle we used to endure in days gone by of having to befriend a mobster and parting with your life savings just to dispose of yet another clumsy lodger has been eliminated (no pun intended), all for the cost of a negative review on Share My Toolbox about a chainsaw that was returned covered in ‘corn syrup’.

(On that note, Share My Dumpster also offers in-app purchases of quicklime and rolls of carpet for those larger, meatier jobs.)

Look out for the app coming to a city near you soon. 20% off your first murd… I mean order.

 

(Full disclosure: I used to work for the company whose incubator spun out Share My Toolbox. )

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