Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tech's Over-Sharing Economy

At the Wall Street Journal, "Don't Talk to Strangers — Unless You Plan to Share Your Mac-and-Cheese":
The hottest technology trend is apps that let anyone share anything, which is why Grace Lichaa recently found a group of strangers eating her home-cooked macaroni.

About a dozen people she met through the Internet arrived, mostly on time, at her Washington, D.C., house in November for three flavors of macaroni and cheese: garlic-crusted, goat cheese tomato, and curried. Ms. Lichaa, 32 years old, advertised seats for the "mac attack" on a site called for $19.80 each.

Feastly asks diners to respect a "virtual Mom" at the gatherings. Mom is "cool with elbows on the table, but please respect the host," the company specifies online. Sharing wash-up duties is optional.

"Everybody was amazingly gracious," says Ms. Lichaa. Some diners even brought beer.

Dinners with strangers are just one front in what Internet companies and investors are dubbing the share economy: niche marketplaces for things that get cheaper when people use them together. Lately Internet startups have, in all earnestness, set up businesses to "share" pet care, wedding gowns, child rearing and more.

Got some lousy holiday presents? Re-gift them at, which describes itself as "a magical place where people share things with friends."

Like leftovers? lets you cook and trade dishes with other moms.

Need a new dress? Try 99dresses Inc., an online marketplace where people sell their old dresses for "buttons," or virtual currency that allows them to buy more dresses from other users.

It could be ridiculous—or the next big thing. Avis Budget Group Inc. CAR -1.09% this month agreed to acquire shared car provider Zipcar Inc. ZIP +0.08% for about $500 million. Venture capitalists last fall valued the sharing economy's rising star—a service called Airbnb Inc. that lets people rent their homes, or rooms in their homes, to strangers—at $2.5 billion.

As startups describing themselves the "Airbnb for" whatever multiply, the question that fewer people are asking is what shouldn't be shared.

In San Francisco, Adolfo Foronda's family is testing the limits. They weren't ready for a full-time puppy, but don't mind borrowing one. So a few months ago, Mr. Foronda signed up to be a dog sitter on DogVacay Inc., a website matching dog owners with paid sitters for a fee.

"It's the Airbnb for dogs," Mr. Foronda says, adding that his 5-year-old daughter Sophia screamed for joy when he told her the family was getting "temporary dogs."
Interesting, but I wonder where is the burst of spectacular economic growth from all this activity?

Oh yeah. The Democrats are in office. Economic growth will have to wait while people share their leftovers online.

Still more at the link.