It might seem like a misnomer, as the “sharing economy” has previously been thought to mean “getting stuff for free”. A new report from Juniper Research (News - Alert) should dispel that notion, as it's projecting that, by 2020, the sharing economy's revenues are set to triple current levels and hit fully $20 billion annually.
With the “sharing economy” going well beyond music, movie and book sharing to include things like ride sharing, house sharing, and even job sharing, services like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit are poised for some big gains, according to the Juniper Research report. With sharing services poised to move into emerging markets, along with somewhat slower growth in the more established markets, this combination should drive some exciting returns for investors.
It's not just the currently-established sharing services that will make gains, though these will likely see some as well, particularly the comparatively recent personal services sharing sites like TaskRabbit. These solutions are likely to be popular thanks to their ability to take some simple chores off people's plates, and give them back some of that time in a day. Completely new sharing services are expected to crop up in fields like delivery and manufacturing.
GM has already been seen using what's called the FirstBuild platform, which uses “collaborative innovation” to build projects, some of which have already been put in consumer markets. Meanwhile, services like TechShop are starting to open up, giving new businesses access to manufacturing systems on a kind of time-sharing basis, which helps keep costs down despite a clear need to produce items. Throw in changes to currently-existing sharing platforms, like Uber's UberEATS system of food delivery, and that's going to spur further development.
The sharing economy has come a long way in a comparatively little amount of time. The notion that everything could be shared does sort of open up some opportunities, though it also has some less worthwhile issues involved.
While we all like the thought of being able to get access to a manufacturing operation to build our small-scale product launches, is it such a good thing to not own these things ourselves? Have we effectively traded the entrepreneurial spirit for something that's done only on a time-sharing basis? Admittedly, these are more philosophical than operational issues, and there's nothing stopping people from owning factories later on. In the short term being able to basically rent a factory for a while can be a great way to determine if a product line is viable before getting a massive loan and building an entire operation.
There are some issues with the sharing concept overall, but it's got plenty of benefit on its side. That is likely going to fuel further expansion as time goes on.