In the sharing economy, everything is up for grabs. Seemingly, any form of surplus is worthy of monetisation: empty houses; sheds; parking spaces; washing machines – if you own it and it’s going spare (at least some of the time) there’s probably someone working on an app to monetise it.
In an era of “peak stuff”, the digital realm offers limitless opportunities. The future of innovation may lie, at least to a certain extent, in digital start-ups filling micro-niches made reachable by peer-to-peer tech, blockchain and the ubiquitousness of smartphones.
Innovation Warehouse’s weekly Pitch Wednesday event recently hosted two companies pushing the boundaries of the sharing economy.
Stashbee is a “marketplace for space”, which enables people who have spare space to easily connect with those who need it – the Airbnb of storage, if you will.
Restrictions to the availability of storage and high capital investment mean the £31 billion self-storage industry is blighted by high prices and inconvenient storage locations. Stashbee changes this by applying a marketplace model, enabling guests to store or park securely and affordably, and hosts to earn income from otherwise empty space.
GreenRide, meanwhile, is a “mobile platform for on-demand urban travel”, which claims to get people door-to-door at the price of a bus. Currently trialling their services in Exeter, GreenRide’s founders left careers as actuaries and accountants to pursue their dream of a ride-sharing app capable of rivalling – and beating – Uber at its own game. The key differentiators being sustainability (namely cutting pollution) and affordability.
CEO Sylvia Sun’s self-styled mission is to “revolutionise urban mobility using data analytics”. Fed up with the UK’s congested roads, she believes data and machine learning can change things for the better.
Like many start-ups native to the sharing economy, GreenRide puts surplus, scarcity and sustainability at the core of its business model. But does “sustainability” really equal “sustainable business”?
“The sharing economy, monetising existing assets, is a hot topic after Airbnb’s success – GreenRide is Airbnb in the form of a moving car,” she says.
She adds that the future lies in “autonomous cars with shared mobility – like a bus but four people in a driverless car.”
“We are a sustainable business, and sustainability is one of the selling points valued by our shareholders. We are often challenged on whether drivers will be willing to participate, but in Exeter, where we are running a trial, we actually got more drivers interested than passengers,” she says.
“We’re 60-90% cheaper than Uber. You can’t use Uber to commute every day, but you can use GreenRide every day. The experience for them is more about checking whether GreenRide is available nearby – if not, they’ll go for Uber.”