Startup general interest

“Sharing economy” is running its course as a useful term

By July 7, 2015 8 Comments

The meaning of the term ‘sharing economy’ has always been a bit vague for me. On the one hand it includes genuine sharing ideas like Airbnb whilst on the other it includes labour markets like TaskRabbit and Homejoy, and then more recently Venturebeat lumped in companies like Wework and Transferwise (although they called it the ‘collaborative economy’).

Still, the label was useful for PR purposes, and for building a positive company image with investors, regulators and the public.

That may now be changing. I’ve just read Sarah Lacy’s Let’s face it: Uber IS the sharing economy which makes the point that Uber dominates the sector, and The “Sharing Economy” is the Problem which argues that Uber and other sharing economy labour marketplaces are using a novel corporate structure to exploit workers.

Being labelled as ‘sharing economy’ is starting to carry more negative connotations than positive. Hopefully we can move to something clearer.

UPDATE: Alan Patrick pointed me to a Grist article which makes a more emotive claims against Uber and others:

The sharing economy is a nice way for rapacious capitalists to monetize the desperation of people in the post-crisis economy while sounding generous, and to evoke a fantasy of community in an atomized population. …

[I]t sees us all as micro-entrepreneurs fending for ourselves in a hostile world. … You may lack health insurance, sick days, and a pension plan, but you’re in control.