I like to watch TED talks when I can and one of the most interesting ones I’ve come across is How Airbnb designs for trust by Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb. This got me thinking back to the old days (10 or so years ago) when these trust or sharing economy companies were in their infancy. Uber and Airbnb are such huge aspects of the metropolitan lifestyle now that it’s hard to even remember the time without them.
I feel like these companies have been created by millennials for millennials (and maybe everyone else). We, as a generation, have embraced the sharing economy as a way to save or make money, while having better service experiences. That’s the key. Many people in my generation would rather pay $500 for an artisan leather purse at a craft show, where they can meet the artist and hear their story, over paying $500 for a Coach purse at a shiny strip mall store. The sharing economy has really provided us with quality services, products and experiences, which I believe is what has allowed this economic shift to occur. Here I’ll cover my own experiences with 3 sharing economy companies: Airbnb, Rover and Uber.
Airbnb: My favorite of the sharing economy companies is Airbnb because I love traveling, but really love experiencing new places. Airbnb is a platform that connects users with extra space and users that are in need of a place to stay. Honestly, Airbnb is awesome. I know there are always those people that have negative experiences, but so far, I’ve only had great experiences. When I was in Europe this summer, it was definitely eerie to be in a completely different country and essentially show up to someone’s house for a room. However, Airbnb really does take the scariness out of the whole process simply by its design, as the video mentions. It provides a much more immersive experience and unique aspect to travel. Research shows that millennials value experiences over material things. This is true in a sense. This is what explains booms in craft breweries, artisan goods, festivals, local coffee shops and the overall sharing economy. I think that a better explanation is that millennials value quality. I know that I really value quality experiences and products for my money.
What I love most about Airbnb is that it allows you to experience staying as a local would in the city. We experienced this in multiple cities in Europe and I felt like it truly made our trip. For example, while in Venice, we had this rooftop patio view, two blocks away from the Rialto Bridge. We were in the best location possible. We could even see the gondolas lined up on the canal from our front door. We felt like this view and our location could have only been provided from an Airbnb, where we essentially “came home” to an apartment in the city with actual locals as neighbors. In Dublin, we had a view over the Ha’Penny Bridge on the River Liffey. We were in an apartment complex with young professionals from Dublin, which I thought was awesome. They get to live there and experience this every day; I was, and am, so jealous.
Uber (and Lyft): I’ve used both Uber and Lyft; they’re essentially the same, especially since Uber now offers a tipping feature. Uber and Lyft are ride sharing apps that have definitely overcome the stigma of that stranger danger/hopping into random dudes’ cars thing. The design of the app makes you feel safe by providing ratings of your driver, a picture of them and the knowledge that the app tracks you along your route. Honestly for me and my friends, Uber has become an experience in where we hope we get a fun driver with stories to share about their worst passengers, best rides, etc. We get some really eccentric people as our Uber drivers, which makes sense. You almost have to be a people person (or learn how to be one) to give random people rides all day and night. If you’re not already a user, I definitely recommend. My friends and I have saved countless dollars on parking fees and DD duties over the past few years.
Rover: I’m currently writing this post as I am house sitting for a client. This is my first experience with Rover and it’s going really well! I have friends that have made thousands of dollars through Rover in such a short time and only have good things to say about the company. I even have a friend that didn’t have to pay rent for six months because of a few, long term house-sitting gigs back to back. The beauty behind this company is that pet owners are no longer forced to find boarding for their pets when they are away. It allows users to find reliable people to watch their houses and pets, so that their pets can stay in a familiar environment without risk of potentially harsh kennel environments or diseases. Rover’s design focuses on reviews and qualifications. Your placement in the search results in your area are based upon your responsiveness, ratings and reviews. Your profile shows potential clients your reviews left by others, as well as that you’ve passed a background check and other safety courses provided by the company. Like many, I’m doing Rover as a side gig, as I am on my way to an entry level job salary that probably won’t cover everything I need. The only negative side I’ve seen so far from a sitter perspective is the crazy taxes you have to pay since you’re technically an independent contractor. The plus side is it’s basically like a paid mini vacation and all you have to do is watch cute dogs.
This might sound dumb or cliché, but what is really awesome about these sharing economy companies is that you are forced to meet new people. In an age where we are so “anti-strangers,” it’s fun getting to talk to new people, whether you’re getting a ride from them, watching their dog, putting together their Ikea furniture or staying in their house. I know there are several more I should try, such as ZipCar and TaskRabbit, but I haven’t had a need yet! What have been your experiences or what should I try next?