Companies typically bank on the insatiable appetites of consumers for new goods. But in a world of finite resources and a tough economic climate, there’s a case to be made that we’re entering a time of austerity.
Chuck Templeton, the founder and former head of the restaurant reservation site OpenTable, is trying to craft a company for these times. It wants to cut down on excess consumption by getting people to pool their resources for goods. Much of what people buy is unnecessary, Templeton believes, noting that there are 60 million drills in the U.S, each used about four minutes per year.
“That’s a high transaction cost,” he said. “With this, if there’s a group of 20 neighbors, three could have drills, three could have vacuum cleaners, etc. It’s an efficient exchange system.”
Using OhSoWe’s block-by-block database, those families can coordinate the use of those items and reduce everybody’s carbon footprint. “It gives people access to the things they need. But they don’t have to own all of them,” said Templeton.
This could be a business model of the future. Zipcar has created an entirely new category by realizing there are many people who need to use cars from time to time but don’t necessarily have to own them. It now has about $1 billion in annual revenue. Templeton sees lots of revenue opportunities in sharing.
“There are a couple of ways we can monetize,” he said. “Maybe I post a powerwasher that I own. I share it with people on my block or in my neighborhood. But I rent it out for $10 a day to people I don’t know. OhSoWe can manage that transaction.”
He also sees the potential for profit in neighborhood-based group-buying of goods and services.
“We can help coordinate, for example, weatherization projects at the group level,” he said. “Ten or 12 neighbors hire one contractor to do the work, and they all get a cheaper rate. We can capture a part of that.”
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