This is a guest post by Jennifer Le Roux, Digital Marketing Consultant at www.thoughtshift.co.uk and Founder of altmu.co.uk.
Globally the Sharing Economy is worth £310 billion. Not only that, according to Sharing Economy expert Benita Matofska, 52% of adults in the UK are accessing it and another 28% are interested. It is clear the Sharing Economy has thrived in recent years yet, like many others, Benita Matofska, had to endure the frustrating process of trawling the internet to organise her family holiday in 2011, hoping for local insights and property sharing. Fast forward two years and she is now the Founder and Chief Sharer of the first and only comparison website in the Sharing Economy, Compare and Share. Celebrating the launch of their crowdfunding campaign on CrowdCube, which has already achieved £9,920 investment since its unveiling this morning.
Compare and Share have not only created an aggregator that allows consumers easy access to what they need, they have developed asset-sharing technology that enables companies to make and save money from their own resources and buy idle goods or services cheaply from others. This new technology has come at a time when businesses are beginning to embrace peer-to-peer sharing as a method to maximise full use of their assets. For example, Marriot International has a partnership with LiquidSpace renting out unused corners of their hotels to entrepreneurs and start-ups. B&Q have launched streetclub.com, an online platform that connects the industry to share tools and Marks & Spencer have introduced ‘Shwopping’, donating the sale of used clothing to Oxfam. In the US, Wal-Mart are planning to crowd source online deliveries through instore customers with empty seats - all excellent examples of how the Sharing Economy benefits both business and people.
Changing the Business World
Businesses need to be resource efficient if they want to achieve sustainability. Jeremy Heimans, the CEO of Purpose.com, recently reported his view in the Guardian that the Sharing Economy offers an antidote to overconsumption, an eroding middle class and rising concentrations of wealth and power. Describing the influence of the Sharing Economy as ‘devolving power to participants and creating trust-based communities’.
The smart companies are future proofing their businesses, recognising that the Sharing Economy is essentially changing the way that business is done, and Compare and Share has recognised the opportunity to develop an engine that can empower that change. They build the tools that enable these companies to actually deliver peer-to-peer sharing both to their employees and to their customers.
Sharing Economy Experts
Compare And Share’s Benita Matofska is regarded as one of the global leaders of the Sharing Economy, and is often approached for her expertise or to be a spokesperson at key events on its continued growth and popularity. Her background in broadcasting communications for travel programming and the insights from her own not-for-profit initiative, The People Who Share, alongside the talents of her co-founder Nick Tong, has led to this explosive venture ripe with opportunity for investors.
Nick has a background in innovation and technology building specific software technologies that enables sharing items (rentmyitems.com / sunshine) and has been integral to the development of the compareandshare.com and corporate asset-sharing technology. Tong has previously been nominated for a BIMA award for Ivy4evr and has also developed clinical trial management software used at GOSH. Further experience includes working with big names BBC, Courvoisier, Publicis Group.
Together they have created a myriad of technology enabling people searching on their platform an engaging and accurate experience. With data mining techniques deployed across their data mapping algorithm, their asset-sharing technology can deal with large data sets delivered from a wide range of partners. Plans to develop faceted search techniques and semantic vectors will also help with Natural Language Processing (NLP) enabling searching to be very precise. Compare and Share’s Sharing Economy focus on user experience means the community is put centre stage making the sharing part of their DNA.
Compare and Share recently secured a contract with UK charity Macmillan Cancer Support building technology to connect volunteers to those who need support The move is likely to interest further charities who will be lining up behind a pipeline of companies that have approached Compare and Share for their unique expertise, including a major high-street retailer. Matofska said: “There are a lot of opportunities for charities to engage in this space. What we are doing for Macmillan is very pioneering and I’m sure we’ll see many other smart charities adopting the Sharing Economy because they will see the benefit peer-to-peer support can bring.”
Benita believes that the potential reach of the Sharing Economy is wide open. With predictions from some that fertility is the next big thing. In addition websites such as ‘Borrow My Doggy’ with peer-to-peer dog walking and ‘Grape Night In’ are enabling people to share wine, so the possibilities are endless.
“Fundamentally the Sharing Economy extends to anything that people can share with each other, which is absolutely anything and everything. There are no boundaries and that is what makes it exciting because peer-to-peer sharing has limitless potential.”
In terms of Compare and Share’s aggregator, although the Compare and Share website currently focuses on car-sharing, development is already underway for the introduction of global accommodation, a vertical that’s estimated to be worth 26 billion and one of the fastest growing segments of the Sharing Economy with well-known players such as Airbnb and Love Home Swap. Future plans include building travel related verticals from peer-to-peer dining to leisure activities such as person to person tours. In addition to this they plan to go deeper into the travel space, providing an end-to-end travel experience (e.g. everything you need for your journey – cars, accommodation, food, activities, equipment…). With ultimate plans to include in peer-to-peer goods as a complete one-stop shop for the Sharing Economy.
Benita Matofska is confident that they will raise a large amount of investment with the launch of their crowdfunding campaign today, which will also showcase a new video of showcasing their company and the asset-sharing software. There are many comparison websites in the insurance or travel space but no other comparison sites on getting best deals in the Sharing Economy to make and save people money. Last year adults in the UK saved 4.6 billion pounds by accessing the Sharing Economy and that is just a snippet of the astounding statistics available via The People Who Share’s report State of the Sharing Economy 2013, which can be found at www.stateofthesharingeconmy.com. A Sharing Economy is an economy that is built from the sharing of our finite resources and it’s very much a people’s economy; people to people, peer-to-peer, person to person. Compare and Share are seeking crowdfunding investment as the first and only comparison website for the Sharing Economy in the world and set to be the next big aggregator to open up the explosive peer-to-peer market.
According to Forbes Magazine, in the last year revenue growth in the Sharing Economy is up 25% further enhancing the huge market potential in peer-to-peer sharing. At this point in time Compare and Share are the first and only comparison website for the Sharing Economy and set to open up the sharing market in the same way eBay opened up the second-hand goods market making the sharing of spare goods ubiquitous. As world leading experts in this space, they have the talent and a unique idea that is infinitely scalable. This is the next big aggregator, the global technology brand, of the future with massive potential for a huge return on investment.
I'm really pleased to have been announced as a category finalist in the Business Woman of the Future category at the 2013 Women of the Future Awards, in association with Shell. My specific area of "business" is technology and it's an area where the lack of women is even more pressing than in business in general.
You will find a lot of articles that talk about the issues for women in technology. You'll also find a lot of suggestions for things we can do better - whether it's "leaning in" at the individual level, as very sensibly suggested by Sheryl Sandberg, or giving more young girls computers and training at a very early age.
But there's another angle that I think is missing. As a female working in tech I find that day in day out I come across a large number of advantages for women over working in other areas, which makes the gap between how many women work in tech and how many women ought to be working in tech even more extreme.
To redress this balance, here are my top five reasons why tech is a great industry for women to work in.
About twenty years ago it was a sad and lonely life for women working in tech. As a result, they created support organisations so they could meet up and remind themselves that they weren't alone. Women starting in tech nowadays have lots to choose from, from formal mentoring schemes such as MentorSET, to informal dinner meetups with the like of Girl Geek Dinners.
Women are just starting to burst through to the top of tech organisations. Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandburg has increased her visibility with her book "Lean In" and her (fairly) recent TED talk, while Marissa Mayer of Yahoo seems unable to keep out of the news, both good and bad. Either way, she's showing that the top jobs in tech are not just for the boys.
Technology is a new sector, and attracts young people with correspondingly modern attitudes. Dress codes are open, workspaces are cool and management styles are output rather than hours focussed. In some other industries being "macho" is still considered a bonus, but not in tech. As one of my (male) coder friends said "I see it as all of us on the same side against the alpha males."
The top top benefit of working in technology is the flexibility that most tech workplaces offer. If you need time to look after your children then working part-time, condensed weeks or from home are all really common options. What's more, the men do it too, so you won't get singled out as a "problem case".
There's also flexibility to be had in job roles, which are often more female friendly than people expect. As internet connectivity expands to cover fridges, garages, tables and glasses, so functionality becomes more complex and comprehensive. Paradoxically, as more can be delivered, we demand slicker, simpler and easier to use interfaces. Many key roles in technology - designer, product owner, user-interface expert, user-engagement expert, start-up founder and advocate - do not require you to be able to understand code and do require heavy doses of people skills.
Money and career
Finally, there's that old chestnut. How much money do you take home at the end of the week? Technology is a booming sector, which means that entry level jobs are well paid and career options (and hence how much you might get paid in the future) are even better. This combined with the working flexibility means that you can have a part-time job in tech and still take home more than you would do full time elsewhere.
This article was first published on The Huffington Post.
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.