Lost amid the hand-wringing over Uber is the bigger story of why the sharing economy is doing less and less sharingby David McGowan / June 27, 2017 / Leave a comment
Remember the “sharing economy?”
Back in 2013 the Economist heralded the rise of a new trend in business, where technology would be used to share excess capacity: we would rent or sell rides in our cars, space in our houses, indeed, sell anything we owned—to just about anyone, anytime and anywhere. The term persists, with Travis Kalanick, the bad boy co-founder and then CEO of Uber, often used as the poster-boy for the movement, even authoring a piece in the magazine’s recent “The World in 2017” edition titled “The Charms of the Sharing Economy.”
Last week, following a damning report on Uber by former US attorney general Eric Holder, not to mention months of accusations of a cutthroat workplace culture, Kalanick was forced out. That news was widely reported and analysed. But it should not distract from a broader trend: the decline of sharing in the “sharing economy.”
Four years ago the benefits of “collaborative consumption” were thought to be many: the increased use of underused assets, along with a long list of environmental and social benefits. The new system’s “immense potential” was loudly touted. There were early critics of the term—the Harvard Business Review preferred “access economy”—but there really was something to it at the start. And the label itself made us feel good about it: who doesn’t like the idea of sharing?