The tMa team recently had a great, thought-provoking conversation with Jeremiah Owyang, a longtime friend and veteran Silicon Valley analyst who now leads Crowd Companies, an association for business leaders that connects top brands to the collaborative economy movement. (Now a company we’re very proud to have as a client.) Since hot startups in this space are learning to deal with government regulation, public scrutiny, and all the other challenges that come with a new industry maturing, a lot of our conversation revolved around how these companies need to communicate -- both to the larger tech industry, and to a mass audience.
After Jeremiah left, we kept talking, and these three key points were part of our answer to that:
Resource-Sharing Companies Should Share More of Their Data...
While many of us use sharing services to borrow assets like cars or apartments, there’s still a fair amount of mystery around this ecosystem -- who’s using them, who’s benefiting from them, and how much? Individual companies are probably not going to share their proprietary user data, so the obvious solution is to aggregate and anonymize this info (probably through a third party research firm) to present an overview of the industry.
… And Prove They’re Not Driven by Desperation or Recession
Fairly or unfairly, the media often characterizes collaborative economy startups as an outgrowth of the economic downturn, pushing cash-strapped, under-employed folks to find new income streams. So the industry needs to demonstrate it’s not simply a recession play, but providing genuinely desirable options that won’t go away when the downturn ends. Related to that, here’s a plausible hypothetical worth thinking about: “Elizabeth Warren is elected President in 2016. She gets Congress to pass strong new minimum wage laws and debt relief to homeowners and college graduates. How much of this collaborative economy goes away?” And whether or not Senator Warren becomes President, it’s a question that needs an effective answer.
… And Communicate Around How They’re Collaborating with Incumbents
Jeremiah has some fascinating stats here on just how many collaborative economy startups are now collaborating with major, established companies. Most recently, for instance, Uber partnered with AT&T to add its app to the telecom giant’s Android phones. We’re going to see many more of these kinds of partnerships, and they’re crucial for connecting collaborative companies to the rest of the economy. But the challenge here is not just getting these partnerships to work well for the people in them, but to communicate with everyone else how they’re working. The more we all realize just how much the collaborative economy is helping drive the economy as a whole, the clearer it’ll become that collaboration is here to stay.