On My Healthy Obsession with Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces

I seem to go through annual cycles of Internet obsessions.

In 2008, it was social communication platforms, like Twitter. In 2009, it was services that make microblogging easier, like Hootsuite and Ping.fm. In 2010, it was location-based mobile apps, like Foursquare and Gowalla. And this year, it’s social marketplaces.

The concept of “collaborative consumption,” also know as the “sharing economy,” completely enthralls me. The fact that I don’t need to book a hotel, buy a car or invest in a drill is amazing — instead, I can just borrow these things from regular people from my neighborhood or from around the globe for a small fee. Now, that’s something worth getting excited about.

So, what types of things can you collaboratively consume? The list goes on and on, but here’s a snapshot of some of the most interesting things you can find on social marketplaces:

Even more exciting is the potential for meeting awesome people via social marketplaces. You don’t get that experience with traditional marketplaces — Zipcar, I love you, but it’s just the truth.

I’ve hosted a number of guests on Airbnb (and have stayed in quite a few places as well); I teach a class on “PR for Startups” on Skillshare, and I’ve learned how to knit (see video above) and live rent-free in NYC; and I catsit for the fun of it via Sittercity.

Along the way, I’ve met some amazing people (Stefania in Catania, I’m talking to you!) and cats (Darcy, Yuki, Ernie and Sabi, you know you’re all the cat’s meow). What’s not to love?

The social economy is where it’s at for me this year, and I have a feeling it’s going to spill over into 2012. So, what was your tech obsession this year? Let me know in the comments below!

23 thoughts on “On My Healthy Obsession with Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces

  1. Can’t believe you left out CouchSurfing! That to me is a “higher” level of collaboration economy because it doesn’t involve a monetary transaction (which is awesome, and unlike Airbnb, not that I don’t love Airbnb) and is also an amazing community. Great list by the way, didn’t know a lot of these.

    • Hey Sid. Great comment, and I like where your mind is. I left off Couchsurfing, because it isn’t a “marketplace” if there is no exchange of money. Likewise, when we discuss “economies,” even, we’re usually discussing some sort of trade (i.e. of money), and Couchsurfing once again doesn’t fit that description.

      Furthermore, while Couchsurfing is an awesome site that helps people connect and travel, it isn’t as interesting to me as a site like Airbnb (or other paid sites), because it isn’t creating an entirely new economy that is helping people make money and do what they want to do. Sites like Airbnb have helped independent freelancers and entrepreneurs make a living and follow their dreams in a sustainable way. That’s powerful!

      Meanwhile, it seems like all the Couchsurfers out there, while being free to travel and saving lots of money by sleeping almost anywhere for free, are mostly bootstrapping it as they travel, staying on couches and in spare rooms. The positive, though, is that Couchsurfers tend to bond tightly with their hosts, whereas the same can’t always be said for Airbnb.

      Thank you, though, for mentioning this. It’s a great argument, and now I feel like I should have differentiated between the two in my post. Luckily, there are comments for all that I miss! 🙂

      • Ahh ok, I see your point. It isn’t a marketplace as such but like you mention, it has a higher degree of social currency without the economic one.

        I agree when you said a site like Airbnb opens up a whole different industry for individuals and entrepreneurs can make use of it to make a sustainable living.

        I am curious now how you would look at an exchange that is based on a barter economy? Technically there isn’t any money exchanged but each one is “richer” nevertheless. These aren’t as popular and usually don’t scale up as much as Airbnb but an economy doesn’t have to revolve around scaling up, right?

        A site like staydu for example, isn’t that popular, but the idea sounds appealing (kind of in-between Couchsurfing and Airbnb if you will) – barter small house work for shelter. Travelers get a free place to stay, hosts can get some work done in exchange. Both of these would otherwise have cost money. Would you consider that a marketplace?
        (It was one of the ideas I came up with during a brainstorming session. Too bad anything half decent I come up with, someone is doing it better than I would have anticipated!)

      • Oh, interesting. I haven’t heard of any barter-style sites like Staydu. They are certainly a marketplace, where goods or services are exchanged, instead of money, I suppose. Very cool. I’d like to learn more about barter-based marketplaces! I’m going to share this site with a professor of mine from my NYU days. I think he’ll enjoy this – he studies social marketplaces. I wonder if he has thoughts on this… cool! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Pingback: The Numbers Behind the Sharing Economy [VIDEO] | hirepurchasecars.com

  3. Yup, love the peer-to-peer model. I recall folks at Startup Weekends pitching or building things around clothing or accessories. There’s one called MyDressAffair that I think is doing something like that for dresses.

  4. Great story, thanks for sharing : )

    I noticed there was no category for food (only chefs). Tableslice is a marketplace for creating and sharing social experiences around food with friends and acquaintances. We’re launching soon. If you’d like early access to our private beta, let us know and we’ll include you.

  5. Erica, if you’re listing parking, no one comes close to ParkWhiz.com. We parked over 15,000 customers for the Super Bowl yesterday and have parking options in over 30 major cities across the US. Check us out and let me know if you need any additional info.


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  6. Very cool you get to try out so many of the collaborative consumptions sites living in NY. Just to add to your list, my startup ToolSpinner will be taking on the tool rental market for the DIY project type. Also for parking, ParkingPanda based in Baltimore. Keep it up!

    • Cool, Daniel. Toolspinner sounds neat – definitely niche, but hey, when you need a tool, I bet it’s a great place to start! Nice work.

      Also, I added ParkingPanda to the list; thanks for the recommendation!

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