THE BLOG
10/15/2012 05:33 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2012

How America's Startups Are Creating a Culture of Collaboration

We're learning to share. Well, at least our entrepreneurs are. It's catching on -- that sharing (to use the phrase, "is also caring") -- is actually stimulating our economy, creating jobs, and launching small businesses based on this premise. It's called collaborative consumption, and more and more small businesses and entrepreneurs are using this concept to launch their companies.

What Exactly Is Collaborative Consumption?

Everyone around you is collaborating -- but let's see how businesses in the new startup-fueled economy are doing it. Collaborative consumption means sharing, trading, in order to make your business prosper. In the recession, it's not about the exchange of just money anymore for goods and services. Instead, it's about older-market behaviors (think bartering) being revamped and reinvented to scale to a whole new level.

Some big fish examples? Craigslist and eBay, peer-to-peer marketplaces that make your life easier without making your wallet too much lighter (but yet are very prosperous for the business who created these methods). Peer-to-peer travel has exploded - Airbnb andCouch Surfing are being used by more Americans than ever, versus expensive hotels that don't give you the real insider view of a new place.

It doesn't stop with travel -- peer-to-peer experiences, ticket sharing, carpooling -- collaborative consumption is remodeling our tired economy by thinking outside of the dollar bill. It's reinventing how we consume our world.

How Collaborative Consumption Is Changing the Game

We can consume more easily and more readily than ever before, and businesses that involve these types of sharing and collaborative techniques can adapt to users' needs far faster than a more traditional business models. Not to mention creating jobs in an economic state where it's not so easy to come by. Collaborative consumption is creating and sustaining jobs, but also fostering creativity in business. Startups are forced to think outside the traditional business box, and it seems to be working.

Who's Collaborating Well?

There are a number of startup members within our organization that are exemplars of these collaborative consumption principles. With the idea of crowd-sourcing and experience-sharing on the rise, we're seeing more and more startups emerging in this space.

Moxie Jean

Moxie Jean is a company based on Chicago founded on the premise that baby clothes are expensive (and your child outgrows them in a matter of weeks, if not minutes!) Formerly Good Karma, Moxie Jean now is an online kids consignment store. For price-conscious and savvy parent, Moxie Jean is "like new" and uses collaborative consumption to clothe our children without breaking the bank. Plus, you get store credit for any outgrown clothing. Genius.

Power2Switch

Like most Americans, you're probably sick of your electricity company. Power2Switch was started by two guys in the same boat. In one click you can compare your potential bill across five companies, saving you an average of $200 a year. It's like shopping for flights (another collaborative consumption model), but instead, it's saving you money and keeping the lights on.

"In the near-term, we are creating the first social energy platform rooted in ideology of collaborative consumption," remarked Suzanne EL-Moursi, CMO of Power2Switch. "Citizens can price compare, shop, and switch on the platform. But Power2Switch is really about educating consumers, and we strongly believe that if people know better they will do better."

JustShareIt

You're probably familiar with car sharing. But JustShareIt gives you the opportunity beyond a car -- aka you can rent yourself a boat. Plus, it can be your neighbor's ride. This is true collaborative consumption - using the things (and people!) around you to make your life easier.

My Fun Ride

My Fun Ride is another car sharing services, but one focused on keeping us green and being good to the environment. You can rent vans, rent cars by the hour, sans car payments, and insurance payments. What's more, they are scaling the business to local economies and creating jobs in regional markets vis-a-vis their technology-enabled platform.

Founder Mark Shaffer puts it like this:

"I want to bring car sharing to smaller markets -- not just large urban markets. We have a car in Ventura, California (120 miles from our main office in San Luis Obispo), and technology allows us to monitor the cars sans a physical office. Individuals can simply be paid an hourly wage to watch the cars, and we can go into markets that Zipcar wouldn't dare to go."

"We have also become an intermediary between car manufacturers and consumers, and we've had executive-level discussions with some of the largest auto-makers about having My Fun Ride operate their rollouts as they search for early adopters and customer validation."

Why Startup America?

The Startup America Partnership (SUAP) is based on a simple premise: young companies that grow create jobs.

As a core American value, entrepreneurship is critical to the country's long-term success and it's time to step up our game. SUAP has three main goals: 1) provide its members with valuable resources and connections to facilitate growth, 2) support regional startup ecosystems, and 3) give startups and their founders the recognition they deserve as important pieces to the economic success of the American economy.

What Collaborative Consumption Means for the Long Term

Collaborative consumption is generating ideas and revenue. Not to mention, many of the young founders above had a great idea and didn't need the kind of capital a traditional business model would require. Collaborative consumption is here to stay -- stimulating jobs and our minds.

So just share it.