Uber and the Shared Economy Corollary
The announcement of the partnership between @Uber and UN Women to create 1,000,000 jobs for women by 2020 sparked discussion among my friends and colleagues. Reactions ranged from openly skeptical (is this really supposed to fool us into thinking that Travis Kalanick, the Uber CEO is a good guy given the past ethical business challenges?), to optimistic (yes, Uber has stumbled in the past, but that’s expected for a rapidly growing enterprise led by a young, maturing leadership team — they’re working to turn it around, give it a chance. Jobs for women, hurray!)
I’m delighted with the effort to create more jobs — this is good progress. I’m also an Uber appreciator — sometimes I’m Uber-spent. I’ve met dozens of Uber drivers globally, and talked with them about their experiences. They most commonly mention the flexibility in hours, the new revenue source for their families, the empowerment they feel in selecting their passengers, and the ownership of their economic power by working when they can. In general, they’ve been a very content group. Like other Uber customers, I’ve paid ridiculously high surge pricing during a rain storm, but also gotten safe, timely and courteous service every single ride. I have been treated well by my Uber drivers. I rate fairly, provide constructive feedback, and have a 5 rating. I’ve met smart people living atypical lives. I’ve had a little dust in the backseat floorboards. And I’ve also listened to interesting stories about new projects, good eating spots, best surfing places and “must see” stuff. In recent months, more and more of my drivers have been women. On the whole, my Uber experiences have been really good, and I continue to ride with them because the people who’ve interacted with me have delivered a positive customer experience. The shared economy model is creating great things for them which they share with me.
Which got me thinking about the shared economy business model. What are the impacts of the individual contributors in the system? How do we interact within these models? How are these models effectively managed for growth and profitability? At their essence, shared economy businesses help other people make money using things they already own — the ultimate in re-purposing for revenue. Travis Kalanick may not be such a likable guy, but in a shared economy, it doesn’t matter. A shared economy doesn’t just mean the literal sharing of your property — it’s also the creation of economic value for everyone in the system, no matter the motivations or agendas … some participants can be motivated by profit and power, some will be easily likable, others maybe not so much. Some can be entitled and a bit more self-involved, while still others are driven by a desire to contribute to the greater good. However, in a shared economy model, economic value is created that delivers a significant portion of desired outcomes to a majority of participants, across a variety of needs and agendas. The shared economy model may be the most realistic we’ve seen in modern business because it fundamentally recognizes that each contributor is motivated and driven by different but equally compelling factors.
Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The shared value model will not be right for every person or every company, but is it possible that it could exist for every business category? There is room on the planet for a multiplicity of business models. The market will tell you, usually pretty quickly and sometimes brutally, if you have a flawed business model. The creation of shared value doesn’t need everybody to work … it just needs you.