Oct 14, 2015

Cities that share: a look at Europe’s new face


Europe is facing a sharing economy boom. Today’s «smart city» means «sharing city» in the first place. Let’s see how renting a drill can change the entire social and economic paradigma on our continent.

«Sharing economy» and «Smart city» are the 2 most visible trends in modern urban life. In the last few years we observed the rise of companies promoting «collaborative consumption» — a system where owners rent out objects they are not using: from cars and apartments to kitchenware and musical instruments.  Normally such services have an eBay-style rating system so people on both sides of the transaction can trust the other.

A recent study by accountancy firm PwC that 5 % of Europeans have already took part in peer-to-peer economy schemes. and 32% stated that they will take part in it in the following year.

These days you don’t have to own something that you use seldom — for instance, ? video projector. Instead, you search it in, for example, SnapGoods — a site for lending and borrowing high-end household items — and borrow it for a fee. On the other hand, the owner has a more or less constant income from renting out the projector, which will soon exceed its shopping price. If you need a host for your pet — try DogVacay . If you seek for a conventional job from time to time — you are probably registered at TaskRabbit, and instead of hitchhiking modern seekers of adventures use BlaBlaCar. And when you arrive you will most like check in an aparment found at Airbnb rather than some hotel chain.

PwC also estimated that the five main sharing sectors – peer-to-peer finance, online staffing, peer-to-peer accommodation, car sharing and music/video streaming – have the potential to grow their global revenues from around $15 billion now to $335 billion by 2025.

This trend extends beyond private and even corporate contracts. Sharing is not just a monetary but also a social paradigm shift. Entire regions change their appearance due to new business and lifestyle conditions. For instance, the capital of the Netherlands became the first ‘Sharing City’ of Europe, as it was proclaimed by its Vice-mayor Kajsa Ollongren. Amsterdam positions itself as a leader in collaborative  economy: Its municipality was the first in the world to develop regulations around Airbnb and help establish «Amsterdam Sharing City» — a joint initiative in which  startups, corporates, community centers, knowledge institution and the municipality. cooperate in providing local connection and reducing social isolation. The list of associated sharing economy platforms includes: Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, BrownCow, Croqqer, DriveMoby, FLOOW2, Huizenruil.com, Jipio, Konnektid, MyWheels, OnePlanetCrowd, and many other SE companies.

London by Rob Bye

London by Rob Bye

Meanwhile, London disputes Amsterdam’s position as the collaborative commerce capital. According to a survey by JustPark, one in twelve of the world’s 865 sharing economy businesses is now based in the UK capital. The already mentioned research by PWC valued the sharing economy sector at $15bn globally, with the UK subset worth around £500m. This is expected to grow to £9bn by 2025.

Berlin photo: Yaoi Lai

Berlin photo: Yaoi Lai

The 3rd contestant to the throne of sharing economy city # 1 is… guess who? That’s right, Berlin!

The revenues from coollaborative business here may be not as astonishing, but it surely is a trendsetter for sharing startups all over Germany and Europe. 

In June 2012 the first «borrowing shop» Leila was established here. The founder described it as «the library of things». It became a start for an all-Germany sharing tendency: Deutsche Telekom   helped launch the social network wir.de, which allows neighbours to swap tools and services.  Startups like Car2Go, DriveNow and Tamyca made Germany a pioneering car-sharing country in Europe — with 760,000 registered users.

Actually, there are many more cities out there who could take part in this contest — impressing collaborative-commerce startups emerge everyday. Just look around you. Sharing economy is meant to provide your every need — and if there is something that cannot be found online for short-time rent — it’s time to start a sharing service!