A word with Rachel Botsman

 

 

For those who don't know the lovely Rachel Botsman, she is a global thought leader on the power of collaboration and sharing through network technologies to transform the way we live, work and consume. She has inspired a new consumer economy with her influential book What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption Is Changing The Way We Live, and her work taps into and inspire a lot of what we like to call 'Startups Worth Making'. TIME Magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change The World”.

She consults and writes extensively about the collaborative age and her work has featured in WIRED, The Guardian, Harvard Business Review, CNN, New York Times, The Economist and Fast Company so we were quite chuffed she had some time to answer some questions for us

 

Hi Rachel, what keeps you busy these days?

A one year old, a new book on the Reputation Economy (little preview in current edition of WIRED), a TV series with C4 on the ideas, lots of speaking still and working on two ventures!

And in-between I go to the beach!

 

What are the most exciting startups you came across recently? 

I am excited by startups that enable efficiency of resources + empowerment of people in smart ways. Some cool emerging players include:

Likes of LiquidSpace and Loosecubes. They basically take the idling capacity of unused or underutilized office spaces and create a real-time market for finding and booking. I think its part of a shift from people thinking about work offices to workspaces. It is hitting a lot of big trends including increasing mobile workforce, desire to work in real-time anywhere and the costly environment and economic toll of underutilized commercial spaces.

Real-time ridesharing platforms such as Lyft, Tickengo, Sidecar and even Uber I think are also set to explode. They are kind of like ridesharing meets an errand network such as Taskrabbit. 

Product rental is just ripe for reinvention. The current experience is awful because less than 5% of rental providers of general goods in the US alone are online. The likes of Getable that solve the B2B and B2C problem could become like the Amazon of rentals.

 

What in your eyes are the barriers for greater adoption of technologies that enable collaborative consumption?

Definitely critical mass on the supply and demand side. Many start-ups try to build both at the same time. In most instances you need to build the supply first so that when users come they find what they are after. The exception is things like social lending or crowdfunding platforms like Zopa where you need both sides from the outset to make it work.

Facilitating trust between strangers is also critical. The way trust is build largely depends on context. Some entrepreneurs assume that the trust mechanisms say on Airbnb is what is needed for their marketplace. Figuring out the most important behaviors you want to nurture and then designing the reputation system around it is the way to go.

 

Where do you see this meta-trend taking us in the next 5-10 years?

We are only at the start of a massive power shift from top down, centralized power/monpolies to distributed marketplaces. That's the beauty of network technologies, they redistribute power and remove layers and layers of middlemen. We are seeing this meta-trend reshape industries from publishing (16 out of top 100 bestsellers on the kindle self-published), funding (Kickstarter surpassed US Endowment of the arts last year as the largest backer of creative projects), music (spotify is now the second largest revenue earner for most traditional record labels) and so I could go on...

Ownership revolution. The concept of ownership is radically changing. I believe in 10 years time in many areas of our lives it will seem outdated to own something as we know it today. We will access what we need in real-time whether its cars, books, music, space etc.

 

Can large organisations that thrive on individual consumerism adapt and offer sustainable solutions or are they doomed?

I have spoken to a lot of large organizations and they recognize that we are shifting to a collaborative age. The one thing large organizations can do well is scale. For example, BMW launched a car sharing program called Drive Now where you don't have to pick and drop the car off from the same point. The likes of Zipcar can't offer this benefit because of the cost of inventory.

I like to see more of the start-ups partnering with big brands who really get the space.  I also think large organizations could get really innovative in B2B solutions behind Collaborative Consumption. For example, can you imagine if GE created a venture that redistributed the idling capacity of the energy it generates across different areas of its business?

 

Thanks for your time Rachel. Good luck with the new book. Keep us the great work.