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Jeremiah Owyang Headshot

How Airbnb and Uber Could Be the Next eBay and Amazon

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These collaborative economy startups like Airbnb and Uber will play a big role in the changing economy, if they continue their growth path, Airbnb is the next eBay, and Uber is the next Amazon.

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You're probably familiar with the global news about Airbnb and Uber. Just this past weekend, Tom Friedman featured Airbnb in the NYT, and just yesterday Uber was in the process of raising additional funds beyond their apron $57 million, bringing their market value in billions. But beyond this single moment in time, let's forecast what the future is of these two companies.

Before we talk about the future, let's first talk about the overarching trends in our society. I've collected these from my interaction from interviews, events at Stanford, and as a participant at the Aspen Institute. Here's some of the broad trends that I see changing, giving wind to the backs of these growing startups:
  1. From global to personalized local.   From the desire for local and real experiences, from keeping costs down instead of global shipping, the market force for local, personalized experiences will only increase.   Even economic models make purchasing items at the local level cost-efficient, favoring this trend.
  2. From ideas/media to goods/services.   The first phase of social was the sharing of ideas and media.  PR, media, journalists, marketers, and communications at governments are radically disrupted.  The next phase is using the same tools to share goods and services, we approach this now.
  3. From corporations to crowd powered institutions.  This trend, where the crowd connects to each other using these sharing startups enables people to get what they want from each other --rather than use traditional corporations.  I've even documented a crowd-building 100 MPG car, and selling it legally.
  4. From latent delivery to on-demand.   Amazon delivery of 3-5 days or even overnight will start to feel slow.  Instead, on-demand services like ride services like Uber and others make ordering a car happen in real-time.  Last night, I waited up to 5 minutes for my car, while traversing SF.
So how does Airbnb and Uber deliver on these over-arching trends?

Airbnb delivers personalized local experiences, powered by the crowd.  They provide that personalized experience at the local level of properties and experiences available to rent, but have an inventory that spans the globe.  In fact, the NYT states that Airbnb is putting 200,000 heads in beds per night, and we're just in the formative years.  It's local and specialized, and often less-expensive than hotels.

The future state of Airbnb could go beyond just beds -- disrupting eBay.  This is a massive marketplace that can add any product mix they want.  I imagine the natural next phase for Airbnb is to help restaurants, local retailers, and artisans to provide services to guests at Airbnb, and then to anyone, all at the local level.   Need a new shirt? Use Airbnb, need more furniture for the guest room?  Use Airbnb.  Need a place to eat in your neighborhood instead of a restaurant? Use Aibnb.

Uber delivers service, and now goods, on demand.  Last Friday, they put their toe in the water to deliver physical goods at the local level, on demand.  Pushing a few buttons on your iPhone you could summon an ice cream truck in the heat of summer to your location, supplying cold confections for you and your friends, all on demand.  Imagine when they activate this for delivering groceries, shirts, meals, and more.

The future state of Uber delivers anything you need on-demand --disrupting Amazon.  I imagine they'll expand beyond town cars and ice cream trunks and activate the crowd to become couriers at the local level.  Anything you need, on-demand with a push of the button will be made available.  As they've already been savvy to provide helicopters to wealthy Manhattanites who sought their mansions in the Hamptons, or ice cream on a heatwave, they'll seek out inventory that's readily available and make available, on-demand.

Welcome to the Collaborative Economy.  Instead of relying on Amazon eBay, the crowd can turn to Airbnb and Uber to get durable goods, media, and products at the local level and on-demand.  Welcome, to the Collaborative Economy (read the full report) where the crowd can get what they want from each other, faster, cheaper, and in a more specialized way that our industrial institutions can.  In the collaborative economy, the crowd gets what they need from each other -- bypassing traditional business.