Would you share your own toothbrush with a stranger? No way! How about your smartphone? Probably not. But when it comes to snow shoes or gardening tools, most people do not mind as much anymore.
"Sharing and using are becoming normal again. Buying and owning the exception." Karin Frick is running the research lab on mega trends at GDI, a renowned Swiss think tank. She is the co-author of Sharity, a recent study on people's sharing behaviors.
During a recent panel discussion, Frick outlined how not too long ago, sharing used to be the norm. Our grandparents did it all the time, but with mass production taking hold and products getting ever more affordable, the need to share resources had largely died out. According to Frick, it was only with the advent of social media and mobile computing that sharing experienced a comeback.
And it came back with a bang! In Frick's own words: "Today's sharing is smart and sexy." And it has a new age name: Sharing economy.
Switzerland Likes to Share
You might think that sharing cannot possibly take a foothold in a wealthy nation like Switzerland. But quite the opposite is true: Switzerland offers a fertile ground for many young start-ups from the sharing universe. While the Swiss do not have a dire need to share from an economical point of view, many are altruistic and like to contribute to a good cause.
On top, Switzerland has one of the world's highest smartphone densities. This is good news for many Swiss start-up entrepreneurs, as their location based apps combined with the power of social networks make it easier to locate products or services nearby.
The Sharing Economy is here to Stay
As more and more people participate in this movement, the sharing economy has received increased coverage in the media. Big business is taking notice as well: It is the talk of the town that in order to be positioned well for the coming years, a diversified business requires some kind of "sharing element" in their portfolio.
Not only is a participation in the sharing economy helping businesses to attract ever more environmentally conscious consumers. Additionally, being at the forefront of this development will give them a real edge in terms of sustainability as valuable resources are pooled, shared and reused.
Sharing manifests itself in many different ways. From offering up skills to complete strangers to borrowing electric screw drivers to renting out an entire flat: I don't think we have seen all the possibilities just yet.
But just last week, a number of Swiss start-ups from the sharing economy have launched an umbrella organization representing their vision: Sharecon.
They are sending a strong signal that going back to sharing is the way of the future - even in affluent Switzerland!
Here are four current sharing economy services from Switzerland you should know:
Sharely for Sharing of Goods
Andreas Amstutz is the founder of Sharely, a platform for pooling of everyday objects. When I have met with Andreas, he told me that in his basement, he had kept all but one pair of skis: "I have always embraced a simple lifestyle, so the idea of borrowing things among a network of people seemed logical."
While other sharing platforms are by invite only, Sharely is open to everyone. Its community allows anyone to try out new activities, such as snow shoe hiking or sewing. Or maybe you have always wanted to try out 3D printing! Since I have first checked out Sharely, the inventory has grown to more than 400 objects all over Switzerland. By the way, I have set my eyes on borrowing a recorder to digitize my old record collection...
The future vision for Sharely includes corporate drop zones where employees can meet for exchanging goods. Andreas has already set up a pilot, and with the way things are going, borrowing everyday objects during your coffee break might soon become the norm!
BringBee for Home Deliveries
I have met Stella from BringBee last spring, and her start-up has since expanded tremendously: A growing group of "bees" will not only home deliver your Ikea purchases, but goods from pretty much any retail store in Switzerland.
The benefits are obvious: Less cars on the road mean less congestion and less carbon dioxide exhausted into the atmosphere.
There are some more hidden (but just as important) benefits to the BringBee philosophy as well: By connecting requestors and deliverers who live nearby, BringBee helps to foster a sense of community. Neighbors who would not have otherwise talked will suddenly get to know one another by sharing good deeds.
sharoo for Car Sharing
For those times you want to visit friends in remote towns or have purchased something bulky, a car will come in quite handy! Mobility is a pioneer in car sharing services, and they have recently gone social with their participation in the sharoo car sharing start-up.
This Swiss platform allows anyone to register their vehicle for rent. On the other hand, a mobile app lists all the nearby cars that are available, and a high-tech key system allows for wireless unlocking using a smartphone!
While I have not personally used sharoo, it sounds exceptionally clever and adds a layer of convenience for those who are always on the move.
Sharing of Parking Spaces
Award winning park it, parku and their mostly Romandie cousin sharedparking are three promising start-ups in the Swiss sharing economy universe. The idea is that pretty much anytime a car is on the move, there is a vacant parking spot or garage space somewhere. And you can bet money that there are dozens of drivers circling around like eagles, trying to snag an empty space!
Listing a space on one of these ingenious portals follows a similar pattern: You pick the exact location of the spot, define the vacant times, and set a parking fee.
Azzedine Lachhab, the founder of sharedparking, puts it this way: "Everyone benefits in this sharing equation: The person temporarily renting the parking space is helping the real tenant cover the monthly rent. On the flip side, having a guaranteed spot every day saves time and is a modest contribution to reducing traffic jams in city center."
Bonus: Time Exchanges in Switzerland
Whether you are a native Spanish speaker looking for tax advice, or a passionate gardener needing someone to set up your smartphone: Here is a comprehensive list of Switzerland time exchanges where one skill is traded for another!
(sharoo photograph copyright by sharoo)