Take a look in your closet, your garage, and your storage unit. If you’re like most Americans, then it is full of years’ worth of stuff that is essentially unused, was probably expensive, and definitely took natural resources to produce.
For over a decade, people have realized that there is untapped opportunity in the piles of accumulated junk that fills up their houses. That’s why eBay has become so successful. But what about the stuff that you might use someday, just not every day? Why not put your built up assets to work for you? Let others rent your things when you don’t need them.
“Netflix for everything!”
Services like Rentalic will take eBay’s idea of making your unused stuff profitable to the next level. Rentalic’s founder and CEO, Punsi Abeywickrema, told a group of us at SXSW how his service will be “Netflix for everything.” They utilize social technologies to enable person-to-person renting.
When items get rented out, the amount of time any given item sits dormant is drastically reduced. Therefore, the utility of any given thing skyrockets. The owner knows that their purchase will bring money back to them and value to renters (all while helping the environment). At its core, it really is just about getting more value for everyone out of a single item.
Sharing in action
One of the most visible examples of this same idea that is already catching on is in car-sharing. Many cities have embraced companies like ZipCar and Zimride which are making each single vehicle much more useful.
In Austin, car2go is a great car-sharing service that allows members to pick up cars from all over town, drive them where they need to, and then leave them on just about any public street for anyone else to use. It has been a great success, has recently partnered with Whole Foods, and is rolling out even more vehicles this month.
An industry ready to grow
More entrepreneurs should start considering these new ideas of communal ownership when devising new businesses. Developers can create the technological solutions that the industry will need. And ordinary people can become “micro-preneurs” by letting others rent their goods.
So what does this mean for established companies? Automakers like BMW and Smart have already started producing vehicles designed specifically for sharing. Businesses in other sectors should follow suit. Sharing consumers will also demand higher-priced, higher-quality goods (no planned obsolescence here), and they’ll also be more willing to have their products serviced. They will return to the manufacturer over and over and in doing so, will become closer to your brand (if you can deliver the services they need).
Sharing is good for enterprise, communities, and the environment. So follow your mother’s advice, and share!