Startups Take Sharing Beyond the Sandbox

Social Web and the Green Economy: Shelby Clark, RelayRides, and Joe Gebbia, AirBnB at Green:Net 2011As kids, we were all taught to share our favorite toys. But as adults, we spend a lot of money and time acquiring our own stuff. And aside from the odd family visit or a special request from a friend, sharing our favorite toys — our homes and cars — isn’t part of our lives.

At Thursday’s Green:Net 2011 event in San Francisco, Shelby Clark of car-sharing startup RelayRides and Joe Gebbia of Airbnb talked about how their companies are leveraging the power of social media to take sharing into the grown-up world.

But the kind of sharing facilitated by these new startups does more than appeal to users’ goodwill– they also make good financial sense, according to Clark. “The green economy is really the marriage of capitalism and environmentalism,” Clark said. “The masses make decisions [that are] economically driven.” The average car owner sharing her vehicle on RelayRides makes around $250 a month from the service, while the average RelayRides borrower saves $500 a month, Clark said. Successful startups in today’s green economy will make it so that the green choice and the economically sound choice are one in the same, he said.

While both RelayRides and Airbnb are associated with very established industries — car rentals and hotels — both founders said they don’t feel especially competitive with the leading companies in those spaces.

“We’re not competitive to hotels, we’re expanding the size of the market,” Gebbia said. “We’re unlocking spaces all around the world that were there but didn’t have a marketplace to discover and be booked.”

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