13 Great Examples of the Hidden Collaborative Economy

When the winds of change are blowing you can either build a shelter or a windmill.


Sharing is certainly not a new concept, is it? However with the emergence of digital connections through the internet, it is taking on a vastly new dimension of the hidden collaborative economy.


The sharing mentality is beginning to make a difference in economic models, businesses, and resource-inventiveness. The traditional roles of business and consumer are blurring. Consumers are now creators, producers, financers, hoteliers, and most important becoming very collaborative. (See or article how consumers are improving their collaboration.)


People are bypassing traditional businesses to find custom services and products that better fit their needs. They are getting very good at building windmills for the winds of change.


How about you? Have you tried any of the new startups in the collaborative economy? Wikipedia defines the collaborative economy as a socio-economic system built around the sharing of human and physical assets. You might also see it called the share economy, shared economy, mesh, collaborative consumption or shared creation.


These systems take a variety of forms, often leveraging information technology to empower individuals, corporations, and government organizations with information that enables distribution, sharing and reuse of excess capacity in goods and services. The advantage is that when information and usage of goods and services is shared two things happen: the average cost of utility goes down, while the value of those goods and services usually increases.


The collaborative consumption model is used in marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist which have been around for more than a decade. Some of the emerging sectors include social lending, peer-to-peer accommodation, peer-to-peer travel experiences, peer-to-peer task assignments or travel advising, car sharing, or commute-bus sharing.


Here are 10 market sectors where the collaborative economy are most prevalent and several new startup examples in each market. How many of these are you aware of and how many have you tried?


loans and investments
Loans and investments sector.

Collaborative economy … loans and investments


Lending Club is an online financial community that brings together creditworthy borrowers and smart investors so that both benefit in a win-win financial relationship. They replace the higher cost and slower speed with a speedier, smarter way to borrow and invest.

Lending Club claims to protect your personal and financial information. Investors and borrowers never know each other’s identities; they promise to never sell, rent or otherwise distribute your information; and only share what’s necessary to complete your requested transactions

As of quarter ending 03/31/2014, loans funded: $4,034,212,750. Wow.



Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.

Thousands of creative projects have been funded on Kickstarter. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person(s) behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. When they’re ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.


Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.


Project creators keep 100% ownership of their work. Kickstarter cannot be used to offer financial returns or equity, or to solicit loans.


Some projects that are funded on Kickstarter may go on to make money, but backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not financially profit.


Places to stay


Looking for a non-commercial  place to stay? Rent from people in 34,000 cities and 192 countries. Their claims include:

World-class security & communications features mean you never have to accept a booking unless you’re 100% comfortable.


Your peace of mind is priceless. So we don’t charge for it. Every single booking on Airbnb is covered by our $1,000,000 Host Guarantee – at no cost to you.


Office space


ShareDesk helps connect people with workspace solutions. It makes it easy for mobile professionals to discover spaces and book them under flexible terms – per hour, per day, or per month.


On the same note, ShareDesk helps companies rent out, and manage their available spaces. There are over 1,500 companies using ShareDesk in all corners of the world. If you have unused space in your corporate office, coworking space, business center, incubator, or studio you’ll be able to rent it to mobile professionals and knowledge-based employees. The platform gives you complete flexibility in how you list your space and helps you manage the entire process.


Related post: 10 Extraordinary Ways for Learning to Learn


Loaner vehicles


It’s been more than a decade since Zipcar decided to bring the European car-sharing idea to North America. Once the wheels were in motion, it was only a matter of time before some major changes helped grow a little car-sharing company into the world’s leading car-sharing network. Today, thanks to cool technology, a member-driven user experience, and an amazing team of hands-on car sharing enthusiasts, this business is redefining the way this generation thinks about alternative transportation.


Personal services


Taskrabbit is in the business of outsourcing personal household errands and skilled tasks. You simply have to describe your task, when and where you want it completed, and name your price or request bids. You pay only when the tasks is completed. Tasks like vacation planning, research, and proofreading can all be done remotely — even if you don’t live in an active TaskRabbit city.


professional services
Many types of professional services.

Professional services


One of the older collaborative economy businesses, in business since 2005. Through Odesk, people with specialized skills in such things as social media, video editing or coding can create a freelancer profile that describes their work experience and suggests an hourly price for hire. Odesk adds a 10 percent fee to that hourly rate before listing the profiles for prospective employers.


Today, Odesk connects more than 900,000 businesses globally – including Dropbox, Groupon, AOL, Oracle and Pinterest – with approximately 3 million freelancers offering skills ranging from Web development to writing and translation. The company announced Aug. 1 that clients have spent more than $1 billion on hiring through Odesk since its founding.



Crowdspring describes itself as the world’s #1 marketplace for Logos, graphic design, and naming. It was started to help people from around the world access creative talent, and to help creatives from across the globe find new customers. And, by helping creatives reach a new, global market for their creativity, their goal is to challenge the current thinking on where great ideas come from.



Popexpert was created to make the process of learning incredibly fun and easy. By bringing together some of the world’s most talented experts and creating simple scheduling, payment and video meeting tools, Popexpert takes away all the excuses and gives curious and passionate people the opportunity to invest in their own.  Popexpert identifies and recruits interesting and talented experts that can help you get better at: life, work & play. Each recruit is then given simple scheduling, payment and video meeting tools to manage their teaching and coaching businesses more efficiently.


Custom products


TechShop is a membership-based, do-it-yourself workshop and prototyping studio that provides makers of all ages and skill levels affordable, open access to a wide range of tools, equipment, resources, and workspace.


Since 2006, TechShop has opened six locations across the U.S, from San Francisco to Detroit to Austin. It has provided members the tools and support they need to launch dozens of companies and create thousands of new jobs in the process.


When a new TechShop opens, they bring together and cultivates a highly creative, collaborative group of makers, tinkerers, students, academics, and entrepreneurs, who share ideas, create new products, businesses and jobs, and learn new skills.


Loaner products


Shop It To Me’s mission is to be the best online personal shopping assistant. They state that everyone shops a little differently and that if there’s anyone who knows your taste to a T, it’s you. At Shop It To Me, they claim to let you call the shots and then they just do the legwork – searching 150+ stores online – to connect you with the stuff you care about most.


Shop It To Me sends you an email that alerts you when your favorite brands go on sale in your size. Not only do you get to choose all the brands you love and your personal sizes, but you can pick how frequently you receive these emails.


Transportation services

Scoot Networks

Scoot networks create networks of scoots, which are electric, smartphone-activated motor scooters you can ride in within the service cities. At Scoot Networks they teach you how to ride the scoots, and keep the scoots running..


Scoot is all about exploring – getting to those out-of-the-way parts of town without waiting for the bus or shelling out for a taxi.


Need to run an errand or pick up your car, Scoots may be your solution.



RelayRide was created to connect people interested in renting their personally owned autos with those people looking to rent an auto.


Your car is covered by their $1,000,000 liability policy during every rental. It covers any damage to or theft from your car, with no out-of-pocket expenses.


Custom pricing packages and availability are established for daily, weekly, and monthly trips.

You decide who rents your car. RelayRide says making your safety is their #1 priority. Their claim is to not  allow renters with bad driving history.



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Jeremy Owyang is one of the experts on the collaborative economy. He says that instead of fighting the collaborative economy, traditional businesses would be better off finding ways to embrace change and take advantage of the shift. One way to do this is to turn products into services. Instead of selling cars, automakers could create people subscription plans for the use of cars. Or they can just get into the car rental business.
What is your take on this new type of economy?
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you. But believe in the effectiveness of collaborative innovation. And put it to good use in adapting to changes in your business environment.
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Check out these additional articles on market trends from our library:
Lessons from the Yale Customer Insights Conference
Generational Differences … What Matters for Marketing Campaigns?
The Story of How JetBlue Turns Customers into Advocates
An Actionable Approach to Target Market Segmentation?
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+FacebookTwitter, Digital Spark Marketing, and LinkedIn.
13 Great Examples of the Hidden Collaborative Economy