A panel of four entrepreneurs blazing new trails into the sharing economy discussed their companies and aspirations during an afternoon session at GeekWire Summit 2014.
Scott Stanford, co-founder and a managing partner of SherpaVentures, moderated the panel, which included Jennifer Billock, CEO of Couchsurfing; Aaron Easterly, CEO of Rover; Kevin Petrovic, co-founder of FlightCar; and Brooke Steger, General Manager at Uber.
Stanford explained the functionality of the sharing or “on-demand” economy as “creating a foundation of trust that enables sharing, face-to-face transactions and customized service,” much like what one might find in a small community. It “brings the village economy to scale” using payment platforms, pervasive connectivity, and reputation networks. The on-demand economy provides “instant, pervasive access to goods and services, tailored to individual needs, often without the burden of long-term ownership or commitment.”
Each participant’s company embodies sharing economy concepts for a unique purpose:
Couchsurfing is an 8-year-old company that matches travelers with lodging and authentic experiences with locals. The company now has more than 8 million members in 120,000 locations across the globe.
Rover helps “dog parents find loving dog-sitters.” Using your zip code, the site identifies dog-sitters in your area and provides thumbnail descriptions of their services. You schedule a “meet and greet” with the dog-sitter before finalizing arrangements.
FlightCar, which begins Seattle operations on October 3 in SeaTac, offers travelers free airport parking in exchange for letting FlightCar possibly rent out their car to other travelers. The founders conceived the idea because they noticed how expensive parking and car rentals were at airports and how they added to congestion and waste at airports.
And, of course, ride-share titan Uber offers an alternative to traditional taxis by allowing people to request rides and pay for them via their mobile device.
The panel conversation ranged from describing how their respective companies participate in the sharing economy, to the challenges they face, and what the future may bring as this disruptive system evolves.
As the leaders of these organizations talked, it became clear that the sharing economy builds upon a balance of the old and new ways of doing things. That balance adds stability to these efforts and bodes well for their survival.