Trendspotting: The Era of E-Sharing
From sharing maternity clothing to sharing car rides, this seems to be the era of sharing, and the Internet is playing the role of the grand facilitator. A few people have already spotted the trend and are coming up with new ideas.
Three such companies presented their products to me in the 1M/1M roundtables over past couple of months. Two of them are currently 1M/1M premium members: Drummond Gilbert pitched goCarShare in May 2012, Erin Lewis presented Fashion Forward Maternity in July 2012, and Marie-Janine Saris pitched Home Swappers Club in September 2011. Three entrepreneurs pitching e-sharing ventures in a short span clearly indicates how the popularity of eSharing is increasing among consumers.
Let’s explore more and see what the offerings in e-sharing sector are.
GoCarShare was presented by Drummond Gilbert in a roundtable held at London’s TechHub and won a yearlong scholarship which was sponsored by A&N Media. goCarShare connects drivers with the passengers who are going to travel along the same route; the website allows people to share the cost of travel. Car owners can make empty seats generate extra income, and people who will be traveling the same way can share the cost and use the car. Win-Win for all.
GoCarShare uses Facebook to connect users and expand the community; a rating system helps to build a trusted network of drivers and passengers. GoCarShare takes a 15 percent commission on the transactions that take place between the driver and the passengers.
The market is quite competitive too. But goCarShare has already got over 100 partnerships with major festivals, events and universities. Partners include Reading and Leeds Festivals, the Edinburgh Festival, and St Andrews University. Festivals have promoted innovative initiatives to encourage ridesharing; a few such initiatives are goCarShare Priority Car Parks, Empty Car Seat Taxis and chances to win VIP tickets.
Carpooling and BlaBlaCar are the major competitors of goCarShare in the UK. CommuteEasy is another player in this field. Based in India, they started operations in 2006 and have more than 20,000 active users now. Zimride and Ridejoy are two US based companies operating in the same domain.
Fashion Forward Maternity
Rent, Enjoy, Return, and Share – that perfectly explains Fashion Forward Maternity. Erin Lewis, co-founder of Fashion Forward Maternity, presented it to me in July and won a 1M/1M scholarship, which was sponsored by A&N Media and Elance. Erin is from Colorado. Fashion Forward Maternity is an e-commerce business for renting maternity clothing. The concept has already been accepted in other domains such as baby clothing and toys.
Coping with maternity clothes is a dilemma for every mother. Some borrow clothes that don’t fit their style and body, some manage with cheap dresses, even for work, and some spend a lot to buy suitable maternity clothes, only to be discarded in a few months. At Fashion Forward Maternity, all of them can find suitable clothes, which they return after using. Fashion Forward Maternity has already partnered with brands like Maternal America, Olian, Paige Denim, Seraphine, and BellyButton. All the returned clothes are cleaned by a third party cleaner using green cleaning techniques to make sure there is no health risk to the pregnant or nursing mothers.
Fashion Forward Maternity was 100 percent bootstrapped. They made revenue in the very first month and have been expanding their customer base at a steady 15 percent per month rate since inception.
Home Swappers Club
Marie Janine Saris from Buenos Aires, Argentina, pitched Home Swappers Club at a free public roundtable in September, 2011. The company was founded in 2010; their concept is similar to Airbnb. Home Swappers Club allows renters and property owners to swap their homes across the globe. Down the line Marie wants to create a social network of home swappers with millions of members.
A slightly different spin on sharing, PartingOut was founded by Kevin Fullerton. Kevin is from Graham, TX. PartingOut is an online exchange for automobile aftermarket. Used auto parts are usually bought and sold in a very static online setting where there is no room for sharing and negotiating. Such a stiff setting makes the flow of the recycled goods slow and keeps it underutilized.
From this observation Kevin tried to impart flexibility into the process by setting up PartingOut. It provides a platform where people can walk through a virtual salvage yard, see the parts they want and tell the sellers “I see you have part X, and I am willing to pay $$ for it.” Then the seller has a qualified offer and it becomes easier for them to make a deal. This kind of communication is not possible in any of the current websites where used automobile parts are bought and sold.
PartingOut is a platform that supports real life deal flow in the virtual world. Kevin is a premium member of 1M/1M and has a deep understanding and domain knowledge of the “salvage” business, a highly specialized business.
Kids grow fast; and parents have to replace almost new clothes with more new items because the older ones do not fit any more. Families spend huge money on this. ThredUP has the solution. They have come up with a business that buys like-new, reusable clothes for cash and puts them up for sale online. Only handpicked and quality certified clothes are resold.
Families can buy branded like-new clothes for kids and get cash for outgrown clothes as well. Apart from allowing families to save money, thredUP reduces the carbon footprint by recycling clothes wisely.
ThredUP was founded by Harvard Business School grad James Reinhart, Oliver Lublin, an alumni of Boston College, and Chris Homer, an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Each of the businesses mentioned here operates in a different domain, but they have one thing in common—sharing online. This is, quite obviously, very good for the consumers’ pocket books. The trend is also largely green. The only losers in this ”second-hand economy” are the manufacturers and retailers of baby clothes, maternity clothes and such.