Collaborative Economy Market Update, July 07, 2015

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Welcome, this industry newsletter shares key market changes, in a twice-monthly publication, curated by Jeremiah Owyang, Founder of Catalyst Companies™, you can subscribe to the email newsletter on the footer of the homepage.

Ford Focuses on Smart Mobility: The initial research and strategic planning phases are complete. Ford announced the genesis of its Smart Mobility program.on June 23rd. Smart Mobility engages the auto manufacturing giant with the Millennial-driving sharing economy via flexible use and ownership and multimodal urban travel solutions. Kickoff begins with inviting 26,000 select customers in the US and UK to participate in their inaugural, app-based, ride-sharing program in cooperation with Getaround and easyCar Club. “As most vehicles are parked and out-of-use much of the time, this can help us gauge our customers’ desires to pick up extra cash and keep their vehicles in use.” This is only the tip of the iceberg. Learn more about Ford’s Mobility Offerings. 

General Electric Encourages Makers: A Deloitte presentation in 2014 noted that “Successful large enterprises will find ways to provide scale- and scope-based services to…Maker ecosystems.” GE has been a leader in fulfilling the Deloitte vision, partnering with other companies like Autodesk and TechShop to provide Makers with GE Garages. The program encourages open innovation, using community-generated ideas “to speed the time from mind to market.” GE Garages has executed in major cities in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Middle East. GE believes that it can drive advancements and improve customer value by crowdsourcing innovation with the Maker Movement. Read more at the GE Garages website.

The Funding Keeps Coming: Only a handful of years ago, the sharing economy was really only a concept and a vision. Once collaboration was able to be demonstrated as a viable business model, investment capital has been pouring in to facilitate the growth and expansion of viable startups. On June 28th, Onefinestay, described as a high-end Airbnb, has raised $40 million from players like Intel Capital, Hyatt Hotels, and Quadrant Capital. On a similar note, Wyndham Hotels has invested $12 million in Love Home Swap, whilst Google Ventures has lead an $11.5 million round of funding for Yieldify and a $9 million investment in Lost My Name. Open-source electronics company, Little Bits, raised its valuation to $169 million with $44.2 million from DFJ Growth, Wamda Capital and others. To learn more, check for additional details at TechCrunch, the Financial Times, and Forbes.

Is Contract Employment All It’s Cracked Up to Be? An integral component of the Collaborative Economy is the abundant availability of independent contract workers who are able to work where they want and when they want. Turns out it’s true that you can’t always have your cake and eat it, too. Somewhere out there among the unwillingly unemployed and uninsured, there are some independent workers who have come to realize that they are not well-suited to many aspects of the flexible-work lifestyle. In some cases, it has not worked out so well for the startups either. Recent court decisions regarding the status of 1099 workers have muddied the waters even more. Speaking of “even more,” that is one of the problems. The idealism of less structured work has left some freelancers with less money in their bank accounts. Call it growing pains or call it reverse-disruption, there are still a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out. Instacart is already converting freelancers to part-time employees. For additional thought on the matter, read the story on Fusion.net and check out my Facebook thread.

Compartmentalization May Be Giving Way to Collaboration in Cancer Research: Much of past and present cancer research has been highly compartmentalized within the university research labs and their sponsoring pharmaceutical companies. Financially, it may be the best system for the universities and the pharmas. However, if we were to ask the families of cancer victims, including survivors how that has been working for them, we might get a negative response. Compartmentalization has driven costs up exponentially. In addition, it has, to some extent, squelched the speedy development of targeted treatments. All that may be about to change as doctors and scientists are beginning to understand the overarching benefits of sharing their findings more liberally across institutions. If there were only one area in which there were collaboration, wouldn’t cancer research be a logical candidate? Read more at Xconomy.com

Uber Is Plagued with Über Problems: Everywhere that Uber goes, trouble seems to follow, whether it is violence in France or legal hassles in just about everywhere. We have said from the beginning that the Collaborative Economy would be disruptive. Uber is a pioneer, so it should not be surprising that taxi companies, taxi drivers, municipalities, and even Uber’s own drivers might present an equal and opposite reaction to its disruption of the status quo. On the legal side, Uber – and the rest of the sharing economy – faces the emergence of what California law calls “inference of employment. Click on Duffon Hospitality Law to see the entire list of factors the are used in California to infer employment in the delivery of personal services.

Why It’s Not Ride-Sharing: In a recent newsletter, we shared that the AP Stylebook allows definition of service like Uber and Lyft as either ride-hailing or ride-booking, but not ride-sharing. The Washingtonian recently described these services as “digitally sourced transportation,” which is also an accurate description. One of the inherent problems faced by these services is that they set themselves up as alternatives (read: competitors) to taxi services and charged fares. Neither the traditional nor the legal concept of sharing involves charging for services. For additional insight, see the article in the Washingtonian.

Image by Pexels used under Creative Commons license.

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