Photo from stefanoborghi.com
OuiShare Fest was an amazing event in Paris that brought together thought leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators around the world to discuss collaborative consumption and the sharing economy.
Here are some of my personal insights and notes from the event:
Future of travel
This was a panel featuring representatives from Airbnb, Bedycasa, Knok and Love Home Swap. It was interesting to note that these travel organizations help boost local economies, such as the restaurants and shops that may be located in less touristy areas of big cities.
In terms of key success factors, liquidity is super important, the idea that a user can derive value from the platform whenever they need it. For this, there must be a critical mass of listings in order for users to get the accommodations they were looking for. ”Stickiness,” or customer loyalty is also a huge factor in the success of these platforms. Each company has to determine what prevents users from moving from platform to platform and creating barriers to switch.
Surprisingly, Airbnb’s marketing is made up of 60% word of mouth, which they believe to be more reputable than advertisements. We’d agree with this, as hearing from a friend about a new product or service is much more effective than a one-dimensional advertisement.
After hearing from P2P entrepreneurs from companies such as Vide Dressing, Sharetribe, Airbnb and Gidsy (now Get Your Guide), the big takeaway with these marketplaces is that user generated content (UGC) is everything. That’s why curation of content is necessary in order to build consistency in the product/service being offered and branding. In addition, the supply side requires much more support in order to create the liquidity and critical mass mentioned previously. All entrepreneurs noted that extra support was provided, whether it was with new Airbnb hosts or with promotions for users to upload their clothing on Vide Dressing.
The speakers also discussed the need to build a community around the platform, which is crucial to reach users. So is viral word of mouth marketing through key innovators and community leaders. They also noted that offline meetings with members helps to “humanize” the site and allows those behind the organizations to get to know the people who are using the platform. At the end of the day, the stories behind the transactions are what people really resonate with.
Michel Bauwens — P2P foundation
Michel Bauwens is one of the founders of the P2P Foundation, ”an international organization focused in studying, researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices in a very broad sense.” The website serves as a “knowledge commons,” a perfect term for a website built by collaboration. For him, P2P is all about creating value outside of institutions. He also highlighted an interesting concept, market and non-market approaches to the sharing economy. For example, Airbnb is a for-profit company where they and their users make revenue from accommodation rentals. Couchsurfing is a non-profit B Corporation where the accommodation is free. He raises the question, who takes the risk and who captures the value?
Public policies and the sharing economy
This panel was all about redefining public services and civic engagement by incorporating the sharing economy into local municipalities.
Panelist April Rinne from Collaborative Lab had a lot of insights on what’s already happening around the world. Apparently Seoul in South Korea is set on becoming a “sharing city.” This article goes into more detail, with this excerpt from Seoul’s mayor Park Won-Soon, “the world is paying attention to an economy based on sharing, not possession. By expanding the sharing culture which we used to have in the past, community culture can be revived. It can also help us save social expenses spent for safety and welfare.” Another example from Airbnb is the potential partnership between the p2p giant with the Rio Olympics, allowing local residents to take advantage of the global sports event.
Finally, Bay Share is a organization in San Francisco that connects all sharing organizations in the city. This is a great idea that allows groups to collaborate, share resources and gain more credibility behind a larger over-encompassing group. We would love to have something like this in Toronto and are currently putting together a map of organizations involved in the sharing economy here in Toronto — stay tuned!
Similar to the panel above, this session was also about the integration of public services and sharing (if you think about it, libraries are a great example of this). Governments can help “incentivize” sharing, working with existing companies/incumbents to make sharing more mainstream.
One socially innovative example brought up by Lauren Anderson of Collaborative Lab is an app from Australia that allows people to take photos of things left on the curb for others to pick up. This saved many items from going to a landfill, and brings together waste management (government), technological ingenuity and collaborative consumption.
Tomas Diez from Fablab Barcelona said something that really resonated with me when he referred to collaborative consumption as “high tech/medieval”, which I think describes this movement nicely. Being at OuiShare Fest with hundreds of people passionate about sharing and collaborative living was a fantastic experience. The conference reinforced that this concept is not a fad, but a global shift in the way we live, consume and connect.
See OuiShare’s YouTube channel for speaker interviews and more highlights