Recently, executives from RecruitiFi, Uber, Airbnb, and Quirky sat on an entertaining and informative panel to discuss The Future of the Sharing Economy, one of the fastest growing segments of the tech world. Panelists included Brin McCagg, CEO of RecruitiFi the world’s first crowdsourced talent acquisition solution, Josh Mohrer, NY GM of Uber, the leading on-demand car service, Wrede Petersmeyer, NY GM of Airbnb, the premier shared hospitality platform, and Doreen Lorenzo, President of Quirky, the first crowdsourced invention submission service. Spencer Ante, a former deputy bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal moderated the discussion. Spencer recently founded WhoWeUse, an app that provides recommendations on local services from people in your inner circle.
The sharing economy is a hot topic in the startup world. No doubt you’ve seen articles about the companies in this space gracing the cover of every newspaper and business magazine in America. But what does this vague notion of sharing resources actually mean for the consumer. Perhaps this insight from Airbnb’s, Wrede Petersmeyer, best captures the essence of the sharing economy.
“The average power drill is used for 13 minutes in its lifetime,” says Petersmeyer. “The question is—do you need a power drill or do you just need a couple of holes drilled?”
You can choose to take Wrede’s remark to be a philosophical musing on the Zen of drilling, a proverb on general benefits sharing, or you can recognize the business opportunity behind the proposition. Josh Mohrer, of Uber, was quick to do the latter when he made the tongue-in-cheek comment, “Is Airbnb getting into power drills?”
While Josh’s response elicited a chorus of chuckles, the shared economy business model is nothing to laugh about—unless of course, you’re laughing to the bank. As the two largest privately held tech startups in the world, Uber boasts an $18 billion valuation with Airbnb coming in at a cool $10 billion to jointly spearhead the next great wave of innovation on the web—the ability to tap into the power and resources of the crowd.
While the sharing economy continues to see explosive growth in the business to consumer space, it should be noted that there are still few players in the business to business world. Brin McCagg, CEO of RecruitiFi, a crowdsourced recruiting platform and one of the first prevalent B2B players in the sharing economy, spoke about the opportunities he sees in the $122 billion staffing and recruiting sector.
“There are not that many companies that have taken the sharing economy model into the B2B space,” McCagg said. “We’re following in the footsteps of these great brands, but I think the opportunity is frankly bigger, because there’s a tremendous amount of inefficiency in business. In recruiting, there’s so much wasted capacity. Companies’ HR departments are spending endless amounts of time trying to find candidates, and recruiters are spending endless amounts of time sourcing candidates and placing a very small percentage of them. Closing that inefficiency gap is a great value opportunity for us.”
Eliminating inefficiency is just one of the benefits of working in the sharing economy. As Doreen Lorenzo of Quirky mentions, the data on current market trends become valuable for both business to business models and business to consumer.
“We have the benefit of having this great community,” said Lorenzo. “What we’re getting is great data, because it’s telling us about what products people want, what features they want, price points they’re willing to pay for them—so our ability to go back to our retailers with this information is pretty interesting.”
While the model is new to the B2B space, it’s been proven for years in B2C. Spencer Ante, the panel’s moderator and founder of WhoWeUse, which was recently approved by the app store, noted that the term collaborative consumption was coined in the late ‘70s. Why then after 35 years has it finally come to the forefront?
|Brin McCagg, CEO of the crowdsourced recruiting platform RecruitiFi, headlines a panel with executives from fellow sharing economy superstars, Uber, Airbnb, and Quirky.|
“Everyone has a super computer in their pocket,” Josh Mohrer responded. “Technology makes things cheaper. So there was a time when owning printed books meant you were super-rich…but then technology comes along and invents the printing press.”
Mohrer added, “The reality is that staying in an Airbnb is cheaper than staying in a [hotel]…and it’s a better experience. We have one recruiter for Uber…so, for most companies, recruitment as a service is awesome, because you don’t want a full time one. You just want one when you need one. Most people have ideas, but they don’t ever act on them because they’re too expensive. So Quirky comes along and is like, ‘Hey we’ll take your good idea and make it.’ With Uber, maybe you don’t actually have to have a car anymore. Maybe we’ll just drive you around, and that’s a thing that only really rich people used to get to do and now everyone can do it because there’s Uber X, and it’s cheap, and it’s awesome.”
“Isn’t it free for you?” Spencer playfully quipped.
But there’s no such thing as a free ride, as competition is quickly bubbling up in each of the industries. This article in Entrepreneur magazine, which covered the event, focused on the panelists’ thoughts on the recent uptick in copycats and rivals within their markets. A fact, that according to Airbnb's Petersmeyer, is beneficial for overall trust and user adoption in this quickly growing model.
And the opportunities for growth are endless. McCagg of RecruitiFi closed the panel by saying, “We’re very much at the inception stage of this whole sharing economy, and very much on the B2B side. There’s a lot of opportunity for us and other companies on the business side of the sharing economy.”
If the success of current market leaders in the sharing model is any prediction of future market trends, it won’t be surprising to see a number of these companies break the billion dollar valuation mark in the near term. And that would be good news for the rest of the country. Thanks to the collaborative nature of these businesses, millions of people will share in their success.