How Entrepreneurs Can Benefit From Sharing Economy Services

2016-01-07-1452172641-5548384-DouglasBaldasare.pngDouglas Baldasare is the founder and CEO of ChargeItSpot. ChargeItSpot saves consumers from their dying phone batteries while driving consumer into retail stores, increasing shopper dwell and driving sales for retailers. The company has built a proprietary engagement platform to connect one-to-one with each consumer who charges their phone. Before founding ChargeItSpot, Douglas led teams with global companies such as TheNewsMarket.com, Amazon, and Interbrand. He holds an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, and a BBA from Emory University. 

The sharing economy, also known as the peer-to-peer economy or the trust economy, epitomizes the shift from owning to renting a variety of services -- from cars to accommodations to 3D printing. With 28 percent of adults worldwide ages 35-54 now using peer-to-peer services, the sharing economy has officially entered into the mainstream.

The driving force behind the sharing economy? Modern technology. Goods and services are now much more broadly available because of our ubiquitous access to the Internet and proliferation of applications on our phones and connected devices. The rise of telecommuting technologies like video conferencing and cloud-based file sharing has spurred the notion that we're in a "freelance nation," where the traditional idea of the workplace as a specific physical location is no longer the norm. And sophisticated rating systems provide the trust and accountability that was once derived only from word of mouth.

Companies adopting shared services have essentially figured out a way to tap into excess capacity of both services and products. On a broad scale, this increases productivity, decreases prices and increases consumption.

Entrepreneurs have long recognized the value of the sharing economy. Craigslist, a platform that sprung out of necessity and arguably the founding father of the sharing economy, came on the scene in 1995. Small businesses have flocked to the online resource for finding talent and securing goods efficiently and cost-effectively. Today, the new models of the sharing economy are continuing to help early-stage startups by keeping expenses and overhead low all while advancing key business initiatives. Here are just a few examples of how startups can leverage the sharing economy services to their advantage:

Talent Sourcing

Your team is arguably the most important factor of your startup's success. Here at ChargeItSpot, we've made dozens of important hires using peer-to-peer service sites. We found our PR and SEO consultant on SkillBridge. We found our logo designer on 99Designs (using the lowest $299 price level at that!). We found our field technicians on Craigslist. With limited resources, startups rarely have the means to hire full-time staff for all needed functions. Nevertheless, the bright, motivated and talented individuals we've found through the sharing economy have proven to be some of the best hiring decisions we've made, whether they're working for us part-time or on a consulting basis.

Car Services

Being based in Center City Philadelphia, parking is expensive for employees and for our business meetings. We frequently use UberX which tends to be significantly cheaper than regular taxi services. In addition, we are loyal users of ZipCar. We use the car rental service for running errands, visiting clients, and even for transporting our phone charging kiosks to their new locations. With their low annual membership fees and their hourly rates starting at only $8.75, ZipCar is a fantastic resource for entrepreneurs who need to be mobile. According to Consumer Reports, the average yearly cost to own a car is $9,100. That's almost three times more than a yearly membership with ZipCar at a daily use of one hour.

Administrative Tasks

Few startups have the luxury of being able to hire a full-time secretary or personal assistant. The virtual assistance space has grown tremendously over the last years and startups are one of its most dedicated (and logical) users. We love x.ai, an artificial intelligence driven personal assistant that schedules our meetings. We've also been known to call on TaskRabbit for basic small tasks and courier services, or Amazon's Mechanical Turk (or MTurk) for menial tasks like licking stamps. By taking on administrative hurdles like scheduling meetings and running errands, the sharing economy makes it possible for startups to focus on their products or services instead.

Propelled by modern technology, the sharing economy has reached a tipping point. Its success now lies in its ability to adapt by offering additional services that utilize excess capacity in new and valuable areas. With Uber now expanding into the food delivery and courier services, we're looking forward to seeing more exciting and innovative verticals entering this growing marketplace, benefiting both consumers and entrepreneurs.

As a society, we've moved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to a service economy. It seems that we've found our next evolution: a shared service economy.