How Collaborative Consumption Companies Are The Future Of Business

by Taylor Stinson

The sharing economy has become somewhat of a buzzword as of late, prompting discussions of start-up tech culture and alternative ways of working. In a job market where young people are overeducated and have few practical, real-world skills, it's important to redefine the limitations within which we work and live.

The ways in which we live are, of course, affected by our work opportunities. As a result of the limited job market, access to resources has become more important than ownership, and not only for Gen-Y youths.

There are numerous benefits to renting, whether it's for cars, homes or DVDs. Key examples of collaborative consumption cooperatives are public spaces, like libraries, parks and community centers. Consequently, companies like Zipcar, Netflix and Airbnb are gaining traction in a world that cannot afford to buy and own individually, which illustrates new economic patterns.

Rachel Botsman has become the poster child for promoting the concept of collaborative consumption and redefining methods of trust over the Internet. Her thoughts have influenced an entire crop of entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of the fact that capitalist commodification and ideologies of "every man for himself" are just not working for many.

Students and Gen-Y youths should be searching for platforms that enable them to work on their own terms and time and similarly, receive affordable help.

AskforTask, TaskRabbit and Airtasker are all examples of websites that enable people in Canada, the United States and Australia, respectively, to receive local help and outsource their errands.

Essentially, these sites are platforms that re-envision what it means to work for pay in an economy that is worse than ever. They allow for a little extra spending money for students or new graduates who are struggling to earn money while gaining experience in their chosen fields.

Unpaid internships, for example, make it extremely difficult for students to earn money during the summer outside of their typically rigid business hours.

TaskRabbit, in particular, made headlines when one lucky "rabbit" was paid $1500 to wait in line at the Apple Store for the newest iPhone 5 by camping outside the store for 100 hours. The hourly rate of pay worked out to about $15 an hour; the asker didn't have to wait in line and Rabbit was well compensated.

Collaborative consumption builds on the principles of sharing and informs us of more considerate and thoughtful ways to consume. We don't all need to own cars and multiple DVDs; Millennials are starting to recognize this inherent glamorization of commercialism by developing startups that address what a generation, which simply cannot afford new things at every turn, needs.

When AskforTask CEO Muneeb Mushtaq was asked by his mother to fix a leaky faucet, the 23-year-old University of Toronto student had trouble flexing his handyman skills. It would cost an exorbitant amount of money for a plumber to come to the house, and he didn't know any friends or family who could come help him.

As a commerce student at one of Canada's largest universities, Mushtaq saw limited opportunities for other students his age who were graduating with huge debts, few job prospects and limited real world skills. He also visualized a marketplace for people who need cash and who also have unique — and possibly unrecognized — talents.

Airtasker and TaskRabbit have, like AskforTask, emphasized community building on their platforms and did so more effectively than their classified services predecessors, Craigslist and Kijiji.

Terrifying Craigslist crimes have been well documented, and websites like AskforTask take accountability for the posted tasks and errands to ensure a safer exchange of services.

The sharing economy introduces ways for people to not only make some money on the side, but to also enable them to share expertise and hidden talents while helping neighbors and enriching the community.

Members of Gen-Y are graduating in a difficult economy and some of the tasks on these websites not only include errands, but also résumé-building freelance opportunities.

TaskRabbit, in particular, has developed a method to rank its Rabbits according to skill and compliance to the website's strict regulations. AskforTask remains open to skilled and unskilled workers — a system based almost solely on the lowest bid to complete a task while factoring in a similar rankings system.

Interestingly, both websites have seen a surge of skilled "tasks" requested by askers, or companies that are outsourcing unique jobs that those on payroll cannot be complete, like programming work, web design, bike repair and Internet marketing.

These types of postings present unique opportunities outside of the typical nine-to-five work in which people can further build budding portfolios.

These are exciting platforms that not only bridge the gap between supply and demand, but also enrich the lives of those who benefit. It will be interesting to see what further developments the collaboration and share economies create.

Photo via We Heart It