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It's not all sunshine, as sharing start-ups tackle big issues at industry meet-up

Caitlin McGarry | May 15, 2014
Bakers who sell home-made sweet potato pies from their homes and struggling city-dwellers who rent out their apartments on Airbnb don't typically have a lot in common--except in some states their money-making enterprises are considered illegal. Yet the "sharing economy" has become the defining buzz phrase that encompasses Airbnb hosts and food co-operatives, grassroots sharing efforts, and new iPhone apps. When you lump a bunch of people under one banner, that's bound to create some friction.

As the sharing economy is entering its adolescence, it's going through some growing pains. Regulations, insurance, payment, and protections for all involved are becoming more defined. Companies like Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber continue to launch in new cities and have extended their reach into the mainstream — even if you've never used Airbnb, you know someone who has. Old-school corporations are co-opting the new industry with their own peer-to-peer marketplaces, like Coca-Cola's job-seeking app Wonolo and Patagonia's reselling platform.

While there are many, many issues to work out, from definitions to regulations, one thing everyone at the Share conference agreed on: The sharing economy is here to stay, partly because of tech advances, but also out of economic necessity, as wages continue to stagnate and cost of living increases. What the industry and technology will look like and how it will function remains to be seen, but the ball is already rolling, and it's unclear who, if anyone, can stop it.


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