Most of us have heard the myth that we use just 10% of our brain power. Although scientifically disputed, from it have sprung hundreds of businesses and schemes promising mind mastery that attempt to monetize the remaining 90 percent lying as idle capacity. We can’t say for sure if any of these have succeeded with the brain, but lately a string of online digital businesses powered by mobile and social technologies promise to monetize the idle capacity in our lives.
Just as how Amazon Web Services came into being by renting out Amazon’s idle capacity on servers originally built out to the handle peak periods of Web traffic during holiday seasons, or Groupon and its clones helping small businesses monetize slow periods of business activity, these businesses help us rent our idle time, stuff, space, skill and expertise.
So if you have a ladder lying around unused most of the time, list it on ‘Share some Sugar’. What about your parking space? If you choose to loan it there’s ‘Park at my house’. Your car that spends most of its time in the garage can find renters on ‘Relayrides’ or ‘GetAround.’ Have spare time to make yourself useful? Help someone pick up groceries, assemble furniture or even plan a party by listing yourself as a ‘Taskrabbit’ and start bidding for work online. Wish to pursue your talent for money? Showcase it on ‘Zaarly’.
Businesses, and others like these, rely on advanced web and mobile data networks to serve neighborhoods and those local to each other. These data networks enable efficient deployment of assets and human capital to make goods and services available while harnessing word-of-mouth and social networks to get the word out. Let’s face it, before smartphones and GPS, there was no way of knowing that you could pay less for parking because somebody living a few yards away was ready to offer up their personal parking spot for half the price compared to the cost of street parking in that very area.
In a time when greenbacks are scarce, these platforms are making cost efficient options available to many while also providing opportunities for the unemployed or under-employed millions. Present in over 10 cities, Taskrabbit has numerous odd household chores up for grabs with just as many listings seeking expert skills. Considering that you would end up having to trust a taskrabbit with handling your personal stuff or even have them physically present on your premises to perform certain tasks, the company ensures safety and security on the platform via social security number verification and a background check.
Zaarly offers the opposite of Taskrabbit and the recent introduction of the ‘Storefront’ feature attempts to position itself as a talent marketplace aiming to help talented people, local to the community, grow a business doing things they love or do well. So, if you wish to serve some awesome red velvet cupcakes at a party you’re hosting this weekend, you can be sure to find a passionate and friendly home baker not far from you to make some. Storefronts allow Zaarly seller’s an outlet to elegantly and professionally display their wares and also tell their own story, putting a human face to a product or service.
This micro-entrepreneurial trend is not just restricted to cupcakes, cars and chores. Monetizing idle capacity in the professional business segment are platforms like Clarity and Sharedesk. While Sharedesk hopes to achieve in the spare office space what AirBNB achieved in spare rooms, Clarity provides a platform that brokers high value consulting and mentoring relationships over the phone for business owners. Young entrepreneurs and businesses who can’t afford high priced retainer fees for consulting services can seek advice from noted consultants, domain specialists and venture capitalists by hiring them for their advice over the phone by the hour, or even for just 15 minutes, literally.
Big names associated with the start-up industry, including Marc Cuban and Eric Reis (Lean Startup), are on stand-by on Clarity. Consultants can set their fee and choose to either keep it or give it to charity. Clarity earns a 15 percent commission on fees not given to charity. In fact, anyone who thinks he is an expert in a field can set up a Clarity account to give or get advice via the phone
Offshoots of the larger trend ‘access over ownership’, business like these and many others are contributing to the growth of the sharing economy. Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, in their book What’s Mine is yours explains the role the web plays in dematerialising our relationship with physical goods, where the access to an experience trumps ownership of the product responsible for the experience. In effect, this trend speaks to an emerging shift in the socio-cultural politics of consumption.
As traditional business models negotiate this phenomenon with emerging consumer groups they must account for the fact that as the mode of consumption changes, values communicated and symbolic benefits offered by their brands to consumers also need to undergo a re-examination. But, that will be the subject of discussion for another post.
This post is categorized in: Business