Open Shed (Australia) – Which business model for collaborative consumption?

November, 4th 2013

We met with Lisa Fox In Hyde Park (Sydney) on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. She is co-founder at Open Shed, an online sharing platform that opened about two years ago.

facebook_image-9c93eb1867c9002f315dde5e18b79c67Lisa co-founded Open Shed with her husband, Duncan, who used to be a software developer. To fulfil their entrepreneurial dream, Lisa and Duncan gave up their house and their respective jobs. As amazing as it sounds, they did house sitting all over Australia for 23 months in order to work on Open Shed. They both got inspired by Rachel Bostman’s Tedx video on collaborative consumption.

Over the past few years, concepts such as collaborative consumption, sharing economy or peer-to-peer economy have been on the rise. Nastasia and I have witnessed this phenomenon throughout our trip, especially in Europe and in the US. In San Francisco for example, we met a lot of people who were thinking about selling their car to use car-sharing services instead. Promoted by technology networks, the sharing movement is also matter of debate. Many concepts that “sound” the same are now intertwined. According to Lisa, terms such as collaborative consumption or sharing economy fall under the same umbrella. It seems to be more complicated than that, whether money is involved or not. Even if Rachel Botsman states that “the currency of the new economy is trust”, let’s not forget that one of the most famous “collaborative” platform – Air BnB – is a monetized website.  Trust? Money? Or trust AND money? What currency are we talking about? It is hard to tell, especially since the sharing movement is often used as a communication/marketing tool.

Within this debate, Open Shed is a very interesting example. Lisa Fox explained us why she gave up on gratuity and chose to monetize her website instead through two renting options: “for fee” or “donate to charity”. She quickly realized that even if there are people ready to rent “for free”, they still want the security of a bond. Rather than renting “for free” (which would cost the platform money), Open Shed introduced the “donate to charity” option. If you don’t want to make money out of your deal, why not giving it to charity? At the same time, Lisa is convinced that monetizing Open Shed makes people feel more comfortable to use it.It is closer to what they are used to in terms of consumption habits”, she said.

What is collaborative consumption going to look like in ten years? Monetized (like Air BnB)? Free (like Couchsurfing)? Somewhere in the middle (like Open Shed)?

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