Attending the FT Sharing Economy Summit

Canary Wharf, London - 17 March 2015

Photo: Jose Paris

Photo: Jose Paris

Great one day event organized by the Financial Times in London’s Canary Wharf. There we representatives from some of bigger companies in the space, from AirBnB to Blablacar and Uber as well as representatives from the UK and European goverment.

I have been interested in the sharing economy for a while now (I credit Dan Sturges for the introduction, when we met back in 2007). When I tried to start itMoves in 2009, I don’t even think the term had been invented yet.

The situation today is much different, and the confluence of Social, Mobile and Easy Payments is driving the industry to very rapid growth. Sharing, however, is still not mainstream, as the issue of trust (plus nuts-and-bolts problems like insurance and tax treatment) is still unresolved.

Some take-outs and quotes (paraphrasing):

  • For a good overview and look ahead for the industry, take a look at Debbie Wosskow’s independent report to the UK government from November 2014: Unlocking the sharing economy. An independent review. (PDF)

  • One classic definition of sharing assumes the connection of people with time but no money with others with money but no time. This works well with rooms and cars (rooms with wheels) but how can the model work for other industries? The future will be in disrupting government services, energy and retail, distribution and logistics.

  • Nicholas Russell from We Are Pop Up made a good case for the incumbents (what if Hilton gets into sharing?) as they have scalability and financial resources (although privately he admitted that resistance to change is an enormous obstacle for bigger companies).

  • Benita Matofska gave another overview of the industry, with the benefit of being able to study more than 7,500 companies through her platform Compare and Share. You can download their report here (free sign up required).

  • With so much talk about fairness and underemployment coming out of Uber’s critics, it was good to hear Alexandra Depledge passionate defence of the industry, and how it is helping many people work with a flexibility and control unheard off in low paying jobs. In her company Hassle (Uber for house cleaners), 92% of workers choose to do it part time, the only way for them to participate in the workforce.

  • Nicolas Brusson, co-founder of BlaBlaCar, shared three interesting facts: 80% of trips between European cities is done by car (their market), the lack of car culture in India and Russia is helping their expansion (so this is just the beginning) and finally, BlaBlaCar might be serving more trips a year than the biggest airline in the world within a few years (unbelievable).

As many speakers pointed out, it is hard to imagine a future in which sharing is not a dominant business model in many sectors, as mobile and social continue to expand. After all, who is against greater efficiency and a new, more trusting society?