Experts believe that a concept built around people and businesses sharing things will soon be worth billions of Euros a year. It is called the sharing economy and it is rapidly gaining a footing all over the world. But what is the sharing economy, and what impact is it having in Ireland? More importantly what impact is it having in Ireland outside of Dublin, and how can your business benefit?
Companies and organisations involved in the sharing economy are varied but for all of them the concept is similar – connecting people who need something with others who are able to supply it. This is made possible through the internet, as everyone is now always connected.
Take hedge trimmers as example of how it works. If you have a hedge you need access to a set of hedge trimmers. Traditionally that has meant going to a DIY or garden supply shop and buying a set. The problem is you only use them two or three times a year – for the rest of the time they sit in your shed or garage doing nothing. In the sharing economy you could allow people who live nearby to use your hedge trimmer to help offset the cost. Or you could avoid buying them altogether and instead rent them – or borrow them – from the household down the street.
This is exactly what StreetBank does. It is a website that allows you to share equipment or skills, or you can just give things away that you no longer need. It is popular in the UK, but is starting to get a user base in Dublin too, as are other companies.
The Sharing Economy In Ireland
One of the biggest companies involved in the sharing economy around the world is Airbnb. It has a presence in Ireland too, and is said to be worth millions. It allows individuals to rent out space in their homes for short periods of time. This could be a single room, or the whole house.
A quick search of Airbnb in the Sligo and South Donegal areas finds almost 100 properties. Some of them are B&Bs or guesthouses, but others are simply people’s homes.
Because of Airbnb, the accommodation sector is one of the largest in the sharing economy. Others that are significant include:
- Peer-to-peer lending
- Online staffing
- Car sharing
- Music and video streaming services
Some of these sectors are served in Ireland, although at the moment you usually have to be in Dublin to take part. For example, the car sharing company GoCar allows you to rent cars by the hour in Dublin and Cork.
An exception is peer-to-peer lending, which is available across the country through LinkedFinance. Peer-to-peer lending is also called crowd funding and it is a financing option that removes banks or other financial institutions from the transaction. Instead you borrow from individual lenders.
What Does The Sharing Economy Mean For You?
Around the world the sharing economy is in its infancy, although this is particularly evident in Ireland. But it is a sector that is growing. This is because of technology, but it is also because attitudes have changed. Think about how natural it is now to purchase something off a stranger on eBay.
So this presents two opportunities for Irish businesses. The first is to get involved in the sector by setting up your own platform to connect and enable people or businesses to share. The second is to get involved in an existing platform or community. By doing this you can:
- Increase your customer base
- Reduce the costs of your business
For example, you could explore peer-to-peer lending instead of bank finance the next time you need a loan. Or you could use Airbnb to book accommodation the next time you go on a business trip. Or you could find a platform where you can share your skills, services or products in exchange for something else that your business needs.
The sharing economy certainly isn’t going to completely alter trade and business, but it is having an impact.