The hotelier that will soon overtake Hilton and InterContinental to become the world’s largest lodging chain doesn’t own a single room. AirBnb, based in San Francisco, is a website which enables homeowners in 192 countries to rent out their spare rooms or vacant homes or apartments to travelers. Airbnb is one of a growing number of innovative startups that are part of the burgeoning “sharing economy” movement, which allows regular people to make money on assets they already own. Result: more and more traditional industries are being upended by competitors from outside their industry. The taxi industry is being disrupted by Uber, a ride sharing app that’s already spread to 70 cities. Airbnb is busy disrupting the hotel industry. TaskRabbit is a threat to the temporary staffing industry. Want to share your car and pick up some extra income? Register it on RelayRides or Sidecar.
According to Forbes, the trend is already generating $3.5 billion a year, with growth exceeding 25%. While regulators are currently clipping the wings of certain of these upstarts, their cumulative effect is said to have a major impact on cities, product manufacturers and service providers. Using Ebay’s rating system, and smartphones that let sharers transact anywhere, anytime, micro-entrepreneurs are empowered to further monetize this space for years to come. Just as YouTube did with TV, and blogs did to traditional media, the peer-to-peer sharing trend is becoming a major disruptive force that will, in the years ahead, create winners and losers in its wake.