Six ways the sharing economy can make your business more efficient

There's a new generation of startups that are hopping on the sharing economy band wagon in ways that can benefit businesses

Sharing economy

Companies such as AirBnB and Lyft have defined the sharing economy. But they mostly cater to consumers looking for a cheap place to sleep or a reliable taxi service. Now, there is a new generation of startups that are hopping on the sharing economy band wagon in ways that can benefit businesses. Some, like Local Motion and OpenDesks were started up with business customers in mind while others, like HotelTonight and RelayRides make sense whether you're travelling for business or pleasure.

Here are six categories where new companies are harnessing the sharing economy in ways that are good news for your business.

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Car rental

Car rentals

Offer:  A few companies struck on a clever plan to optimize a wasted resource: cars parked at the airport or otherwise unused by locals. Now, you can touch down and drive off in a car that a local traveler left behind. 

Business benefit: Prices can be cheaper than the big rental companies. 

Ready for primetime? There's room for improvement, primarily because of availability. RelayRides is the biggest, offering service from hundreds of airports in the U.S. Getaround is available in a handful of cities, FlightCar operates from the Boston and San Francisco airports and SilverCar works out of six airports.

Pricing: Varies, based on location. As low as $8 an hour on up to $125 a day, depending on the car.


Hotel rooms

Offer: New options for last minute bookings, many of them built entirely around mobile apps, are cropping up. HotelTonight just scored $45 million in funding for its mobile-only service that offers deals on hotel rooms. The catch is the deals are only available on the day of your stay.

Business benefit: Rooms go for much cheaper than they would if you had to book last minute directly.

Ready for primetime? Definitely. There are now lots of competitors in this market with mobile-only last minute services, including Hipmunk's Tonight Only mobile app, Blink (recently bought by Groupon) and Priceline's Tonight-Only app.

Pricing: Depends on location and hotel. Most rooms go for at least $50 off.

Office space

Office space

Offer: If you've got a half a day before a flight or you're sick of staring at the walls of your hotel room, this could be a good option for you. 

Benefit: Services like LiquidSpace help out mobile workers but also provide income for businesses that have empty offices or conference rooms. Desks Near Me and ShareDesk, both of which have the advantage of operating in cities around the world, are other options.

Ready for primetime? There's room for improvement. ShareDesk is the only one of the three that lets renters review the sites.

Pricing: Varies, based on location, whether you're after a desk or a conference room, and how long you want to stay. From $10 an hour on up.



Offer: Easily find and pay for parking spots offered by people who, say own spots in front of their apartment, but drive to work and leave it vacant all day.

Business benefit: Spots can be a lot cheaper than valet parking or a high-price lot.

Ready for primetime? Not yet. has one of the best selections, but slim inventory. Parkcirca, in beta, is just getting going and offers very few options. Parking Panda has a slightly different twist: rather than collect spots from individuals, it pulls together availability from parking companies. That means it has a better selection than some of the others.

Pricing: $2 an hour or $13 a day for spots near downtown San Francisco on the low end.

Fleets of cars


Offer:  Many businesses and gov't. agencies have fleets of cars. What if those organizations could share their fleets to reduce overall fleet size?

Business benefit: The technology should cut costs for businesses managing large fleets but also let them make money on cars otherwise sitting idle.  Local Motion offers technology that can be added to any vehicle so that workers can use their employee IDs to unlock cars and drive away. On the backend, fleet managers can see who is driving which cars how far, in order to bill appropriate cost centers. 

Ready for primetime? This company is here to stay. Local Motion just got a $4 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz.

Pricing: Local Motion sells its software and hardware to enterprises, which would set their own prices.

Sharing tasks


Offer: Users post the job they want done and how much they'll pay, then choose someone for the job.

Business benefit: It's easier and cheaper to hire through one of the new services. Plus, other related niche services have popped up. For instance, Gigwalk hooks up businesses looking to check up on thousands of retail outlets, in order to, for example, ensure that a product display is set up correctly. CrowdFlower is a bit like Amazon's Mechanical Turk– both services match projects that typically require lots of tedious work online with people willing to tackle chunks of the project.

Ready for primetime? TaskRabbit is one of the most established in this space.

Pricing: Depends on location, task and time.