After having provoked equal amounts of hope and of disillusion, the collaborative economy is in a transition period, in which business and data will have a major role to play.
"Together, Mother Nature and the market 'said stop'! We now know that the economy of hyper-consumption is a house of cards.” It was with this striking maxim, that in 2010, the authors of What's Mine is Yours, (Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers), laid the foundations for what would become the flagship trend of the decade: the collaborative economy. Brought into being by a new type of actors, such as Uber or Airbnb, this new economic paradigm aims to decentralise the delivery of goods and services by using a single tool: the platform. This approach is more adapted to the new modes of consumption, because citizens increasingly tend to prefer usage to ownership. This is notably the reason for the success of the Netflix streaming service for movies and series, and Blablacar for carpooling. And according the figures published by the audit firm PWC, this market is expanding. Indeed, the total amount of transactions in the collaborative economy currently stands at 28 billion euros, and could, according to the latest estimates, multiply by 20, reaching 570 billion euros by 2025. And there is no reason to believe that this phenomenon will not affect businesses. On the contrary, they have a major role to play: transforming the monopolistic universe of platforms into an open ecosystem of collaborative innovation.
Decentralisation rather than disintermediation
The promise was a beautiful one... Today we know that it was more myth than reality. Because by wanting to decentralise the value of exchanges between individuals, these new "tech giants” have gradually installed new monopolies... of intermediation. And they have done this, by "disrupting intermediaries via an aggressive commercial strategy and a policy of regulatory disruption." However, for Xavier Lavayssière, expert researcher in blockchain regulation at the University of Paris Panthéon Assas, "this is only a very particular acceptance of what the collaborative economy really is. Moreover, players such as Uber remain highly centralised, as they seek to capture a given market for themselves.” And these new modes of governance, far from their initial promises, have finally contributed to depleting the social character of the collaborative economy, as evidenced by the precariousness of the "false independents" working for Uber or Deliveroo. This is why it is now time to write the second act of the collaborative economy, re-enhancing its participatory and open character. Because the raison d'être of a platform, and it is utmost the case of collaborative platforms, is not only to connect, but also to make people act. And to do this, it is necessary to give the "consum'actor" the pride of place they deserve. "Consom'actor", because, more than ever, citizens are engaged towards more sustainable and more responsible consumption habits. The platform strategies of companies must take into account this trend. It is up to companies to invent new modes of governance vis-à-vis service providers and new ways of creating value for customers.
A new age : data sharing.
This is surely the age of reason for the collaborative economy. Also, for Xavier Lavayssière, "we are starting to imagine new business models : where a company cannot be at the centre of the ecosystem, keeping all data siloed, as Airbnb does, but rather several actors sharing their data, with a spirit of co-construction". The platform, in this context, acts as a crossroads, a meeting point between different actors who, far from competing, collaborate in open innovation. And it is in this synergy that the true sharing and balance of "business models" is found.
But it is still necessary to conceive and run the platforms of tomorrow in this sense. That is why, in order to facilitate and secure this horizontal sharing of data, some entrepreneurs are starting to focus on blockchain technology. Why? Because it allows for shared data to be secured (as a service) and also to be shared in a completely decentralised and distributed manner (as a platform). The result is a complete overhaul of the ecosystem and the creation of new spheres of innovation through co-construction. Thus, these new types of collaboration, which are becoming generalised, could give meaning to the collaborative economy by durably anchoring open innovation in the long run. Because “the real levers of change can be found in this dialogue and this sharing of information between actors. The blockchain, in this context, can only be the means, never the end in itself" concludes Xavier Lavayssière. But while in this system of sharing and participation everyone seems to be a winner, it is still necessary to fix issues of governance and regulation. One for all, and all for one!