Collaborative Consumption Not Just for StartUps Any Longer

Part 1: Collaborative Consumption Not Just for StartUps Any Longer

As we enter 2016, it seems clear that the much talked about age of collaborative consumption is most definitely not a blip or fad, but rather a new economic paradigm with far reaching tentacles.

We see the economy’s power and imprint everywhere from the stages of CES this week at a global conference once focused solely on electronic gadgetry, to the campaign trail where candidates are tripping over themselves to develop platforms around the topic that will increase their poll numbers.

What’s most interesting to me however is the impact the sharing economy is having on traditional businesses. The latest shift we are seeing is with large market leading giants becoming smart enough to recognize that the new economy is a perfect testament to the old adage “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

A great example is this week’s GM announcement of a $500 million dollar investment into Lyft. The partnership will help the start up to develop autonomous vehicles which will definitely be a boon to the future of ride sharing models, as will the spate of short-term rental hubs the new alliance will aim to create.

The GM news follows a flurry of other announcements highlighting how big business is getting into the sharing economy game. Other notable deals include the massive investment by Hyatt into Airbnb competitor onefinestay and Absolut’s new local distillery program.

While it’s clear that the line between traditional and sharing economy companies is blurring, what seems to be in question is whether keeping an uber niche focus or pushing into larger conglomerate service type structures is preferred.

With companies like Uber branching off from just transportation to everything from food delivery to courier services, the question that lies ahead is how to create scale, while still remaining small enough in focus to achieve the levels of agility and innovation required to compete in today’s ultra competitive marketplace.

I for one believe that the too big to fail mentality most definitely applies here. As we move further and further from the hubris that drove the 2008 meltdown, we must not forget the Jobsian wisdom that pioneered our new world order. Be good at one thing and do that one thing better than anyone else.

Collaborative Consumption Not Just for StartUps Any Longer

With sharing economy “purists” popping up in places like Berlin with initiatives like borrowing shops, shared refrigerators, and community gardens on the rise, it seems clear that maintaining a crystallized definition of what collaborative consumption is and is not, and what the critical factors are for success vs. failure, will be essential to ascertaining the potential and longevity of our We-Commerce world.

The Lyft GM news seems like a step in the right direction. Two transportation innovators coming together with a rifle shot vision to imagine the future transformation of the sector. Let’s hope that other leading sharing economy companies retain their humility and keep their focus so we don’t harken back to the days of the late 1990s tech boom and find ourselves in another type of bubble.

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!

Wecommerce book Sharing Economy

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