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The definitive business advent calendar: 17 December – All hail the sharing economy

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Indeed, Airbnb’s meteoric growth shook the hotel industry to its core, and regulatory fights have followed it in cities from New York to Barcelona.

But now a report has shown just how truly insane Airbnb’s growth has been since 2010. In the summer of 2010, about 47,000 people stayed with an Airbnb host. Compare that to this summer, which saw almost 17m people stay at an Airbnb location.

That means that in the last five years, summer travel on Airbnb has grown 353 times over.

To put that into context, that’s more people than the population of Greece, or Sweden, or Switzerland. And more people traveled on Airbnb this summer than traveled to Paris, or Dubai, or New York, in an entire year.

Not only does that suggest Airbnb has found itself the perfect target audience, but it has successfully tapped into the sharing economy.

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In fact, Airbnb is probably now the best-known example of this phenomenon. However, over the past four years at least 100 companies have sprouted up to offer owners a tiny income stream out of dozens of types of physical assets, without needing to buy anything themselves. 

“The sharing economy is a real trend. I don’t think this is some small blip,” said Joe Kraus, a general partner at Google Ventures who has backed two car-sharing sites, RelayRides and Sidecar. “People really are looking at this for economic, environmental and lifestyle reasons. By making this access as convenient as ownership, companies are seeing a major shift.”

The sharing concept has created markets out of things that wouldn’t have been considered monetisable assets before.

 “We’re moving from a world where we’re organised around ownership to one organised around access to assets,” said Lisa Gansky, who started the Ofoto photo-sharing site, before selling it in 2001 to Eastman Kodak.

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