Why the Sharing Economy clashes with regulators

Council members and mayors (pictured to the right) take turns at grilling Airbnb and Lyft reps in what seemed like a town hall meeting where the quintessential angry mob voiced their concerns about new city ordinances.

This was no town hall meeting, though. It was the National League of Cities "Sharing Economy panel discussion". And in a ironic role reversal, council members became a disgruntled group of residents. Elected officials were voicing the same concerns that have dominated many discussions in city councils across the US: should these "sharing economy" companies be allowed to operate without regulation? Why haven't they asked for permission before setting up shop in our community? Many of the questions asked resonated with session attendees who were also elected officials. The crux of the issue was: how can elected officials pass legislation that will keep residents safe and promote long term economic prosperity for their communities, which keeps up with the hyper pace at which Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are growing.

As an aside, it was impressive how well both Anita Roth (Airbnb) and Emily Castor (Lyft) answered questions in a poised, calm, and collected fashion. Their responses came from a place of confidence, empathy, and willingness to work with council members.

Their responses came from a place of confidence, empathy and willingness to work with council members.

There was certainly a tangible feeling of frustration and overall fear of the unknown. One of the questioners at the mic put it quite succinctly: "isn't there a report with all the different companies out there that we should know about?"

I've been following and actively been involved in the sharing economy movement for a while. I decided to provide Part 2 of the Government Technology Guide below. Part 1 can be found here

Government Tech Guide Part 2: The Sharing Economy

'Sharing Economy' is a misnomer and I don't think it represents the space very well. A better term is peer-to-peer marketplaces, but that would warrant its own article. Jeremiah Owyang uses the term Collaborative Economy which I think describes these companies much better. You should read his post. For the sake of clarity, I'll refer to them as Sharing Economy companies, just so we can put them all under a recognizable list.

All sharing economy companies are NOT created equal.

The companies that are welcomed into the sharing economy club are those that live by the mantra access trumps ownership. This means consumers are starting to value experiences and flexibility over property ownership. But that's not enough. Does that mean that Hertz car rental is part of the sharing economy? This is where it gets tricky. For many, Zipcar is considered one of the classic sharing economy companies, but is it? Matthew Yglesias from Slate does not think so. In his article, he asks people to stop putting these types of companies in the same bag.

Zipcar was not and is not a service that facilitates the formation of automobile co-ops in which multiple households combine to collectively own and share a fleet of vehicles.

That would be an interesting idea for a business, but it's not Zipcar's business [...] Zipcar wanted to rent cars in a different kind of way, so they needed a way to signal to people that it wasn't a head-to-head competitor with Hertz.

Matthew Yglesias - Slate

Sharing Economy companies should be those that empower people with underutilized resources to share them with or rent them out to other people. The list I put together highlights the companies that embrace this ideology as their core vision.

The List

1. Airbnb Rent unique accommodations from local hosts in 190+ countries. Feel at home anywhere you go in the world with Airbnb.

2. Lyft is your friend with a car, whenever you need one. Download the app, and get a ride from a friendly driver within minutes.

3. Lending Club is America's #1 credit marketplace. Apply for a low, fixed rate personal loan or invest to earn solid returns.

4. VRBO is Vacation Rentals by Owner – Book over 1 million listings across our family of brands. Perfect for Family Vacations, Reunions & Group Travel.

5. DogVacay Find the perfect 5 star dog sitter with DogVacay! We offer home dog boarding with thousands of pet sitting hosts and 24/7 support to guarantee your peace of mind.

6. Getaround Social car sharing: Rent cars by the hour from people around you. Start renting out yours today and earn cash.

7. Task Rabbit Live smarter and outsource household errands and skilled tasks to trusted people in your community.

8. Yerdle Get things you want — like clothes, gadgets, gear — with yerdle credits. We'll give you 250 credits to jumpstart your experience.

9. EatWith is a global community that lets you enjoy authentic and intimate dining experiences in people's homes.

I'm excited to see what other resources will be made available in the near future. What other industries will jump on the bandwagon? Time, money, rooms, cars, dining tables are booming right now. Which vertical is next? Is it government?

About Alan and MuniRent

Alan has always been passionate about the sharing economy. From Superhost on Airbnb to co-founding MuniRent, he's always been excited to foster more collaboration between people and now governments.

Schedule a demo of MuniRent and see why 25 public agencies are already on board. MuniRent is the only web-based reservation tool for heavy equipment that is specifically designed for crews. Increase fleet utilization inside your organization with a proven and simple solution.

Follow Alan on LinkedIn and Twitter: @mondalan

Follow MuniRent on its Linkedin Company Page and Twitter: @munirent