Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who founded the World Wide Web, is famous for saying: “This is for everyone.”
His words have never been so apt.
The internet is inspiring a very new sort of business revolution, one that’s offering new ways for us to make money and save money together. A new way that is tearing up old business models and reinventing better ones. A new way that relies on that most philanthropic concept - what’s mine is yours.
Welcome to the brave new world of Collaborative Consumption. A revolution that could lead to the democratisation of business models and really help your wallet.
Making money - together
Technology means that renting, lending, swapping, bartering and gifting can now take place on a scale never before possible.
We first saw this trend emerge in the creation of eBay and Craigslist, which grew from humble auction site and local listing service, respectively, to become online marketplace powerhouses allowing the smallest to the biggest buyer and seller to communicate and transact together.
Their success has spurred on entrepreneurs to take things a step further across a range of industries.
Perhaps the best well known so far is Airbnb, which has turned itself into a multi-billion dollar business by providing a platform for you to rent out your room or apartment to tourists. You get some extra income, tourists get a better deal than paying through the nose for a hotel.
Its success has spawned other businesses keen to find a home for visitors' cash, such as onefinestay.com that allows you to stay in someone’s house, or rent out your own, but with a twist that the onefinestay team go in first and deck it out like a five-star hotel – from perfectly made beds to bathrooms full of luxury toiletries.
A good shake up of the behind-the-times renting and letting market can’t be far behind. For once your house might turn out to be a bit of an earner, rather than just costing you a fortune.
Driving through cost savings
Collaborative consumption might begin at home, but it doesn’t end there. There are a string of old-fashioned business models that technology can – and is – disrupting with the help of 'ours truly'.
Rising petrol costs are driving real change in the transport market. Streetcar pioneered car sharing in the UK - hiring a car by the hour when you want to, as an alternative to owning a vehicle. They were quickly gobbled up by their bigger international rival, Zipcar, who are themselves subject to a takeover by industry big daddy Avis Budget. They must have wished they had hit the accelerator on their own car sharing plans earlier.
But they’re not alone. Peer-to-peer car pooling platforms (www.liftshare.com and www.blablacar.com) allow travellers to co-ordinate trips together to save money while sites such as parkatmyhouse.com allow you to rent out your parking space.
With your house and driveway turned into unexpected money makers, what about using your spare time and skills to make a bit of extra cash?
TaskRabbit has gained a fair amount of traction, certainly in the US, providing a platform for people to outsource their errand and to-do list, from house cleaning to picking up the shopping to that dreaded Ikea wardrobe assembly.
Taskhub, an 02 Telefonica backed start-up, is aiming to make a similar impression in the UK while Youpijob - where people post jobs they need doing and what they’ll pay for them - is looking to transfer its success from France to Britain as well.
If you have a useful skill you can even set up a course or an experience for like-minded people, using innovative new services such as www.idlovetodothat.com whose goal is to empower women. Or benefit from trying new things by going to theamazings.com which hopes to give people over the age of 50 a new lease of life.
Spare savings? Lend it to someone for a return. Spare things? Rent them out. Spare space? Let somebody store things in it. You can soon see how a new breed of businesses have emerged that can help you make spare cash every day, in every part of your life.
Collaborative consumption has also spawned a whole range of new sharing and caring services. Perhaps the best known is Freecycle which matches people who have things they want to get rid of, with people who want to use them.
The DoNation lets you give by doing. Ecomodo styles itself as the market place for good returns. landshare.net connects people who want to grow plants or vegetables with people who have land to spare.
Taken a step further, collaborative consumption has spawned the rise of people clubbing together to get a better deal. Huddlebuy.co.uk, which I help, enables small businesses to save money by getting a better deal from a complete range of bigger suppliers and brands.
Rising energy costs are spurring people to come together to try and get a better deal. Consumer magazine Which? tried it last year with a mixed result - but it will no doubt spur on others to make their own attempts.
A whole range of initiatives are being set up to get local people to help other locals. Bristol has even gone as far as creating its own currency - the Bristol Pound to help support the local high street and traders.
This is just the beginning. Collaborative Consumption is here to stay, with ever more innovative and sophisticated services bringing more power to the people in the real world beyond the computer screen.
We are all in this together - and together we can make and save more money than ever before.
Andy Yates is an experienced entrepreneur, business mentor, advisor and angel investor and helps a portfolio of exciting growthbusinesses reach their potential including Huddlebuy, Europe’s largest business money saving website.Follow Andy on Twitter: @smallbizhelp Follow Huddlebuy on Twitter: @huddlebuy