4 Entrepreneurs on the Rise of the Sharing Economy

tech-connect-entrepreneurs-on-sharing-economy

I attended the TechConnect conference at Boston University Questrom School of Business, where one session of the conference focused on entrepreneurship in the sharing economy. The four panelists were Dylan Husted (CEO, SaveOhno), Braden Golub (CEO, SPOT), Patt Griffin (General Manager, HourlyNerd), and Tyler George (General Manager, Lyft). 

Challenges of two-sided networks

In the sharing economy, leveraging two-sided network power is both an advantage and a challenge. “Growth for us means two things: getting as many passengers as possible, and growing a driver base is just as difficult,” Tyler George said of Lyft. “We have to grow and balance, and we have to think about two groups that are different demographics.” The solution, and challenge, is developing the incentive. “How can we incentivize people to unlock this market?” Dylan Husted sees that the winning companies in the sharing economy facilitate exchange. Airbnb’s core competency is not being “good at hotels” or Lyft being good at “taxi service.” 

HourlyNerd “links up” MBAs with SMBs (small and medium businesses) who have specific needs, such as the need for someone for a few hours to close their books. Patt Griffin says the consultants “can go after pretty sophisticated problems” and that this “creates price competition among professionals and consultants.”

Facing competition

Griffin notes, “What I’m trying to do is compete with the status quo.” He notes that in the face of competition you need to know the delta between what the customer currently uses and the solution you offer. He adds, “we don’t just fly blind. We don’t do something without getting verified outside data.” 

The challenges of being an entrepreneur

The daily schedule “changes on a minute by minute basis,” says Braden Golub. “There are big mistakes and small mistakes.” Griffin adds, “every entrepreneur at the beginning is making everything up on the fly.”

Golub notes, there are “high peaks and low valleys.” His advice is to “go to sleep and leave it behind you.” Husted shared, “the day I separated myself from the business, that’s the day I became fearless and business picked up. Separate yourself emotionally.” 

Another challenge is getting customers to write reviews for SPOT, which Golub describes as “the Airbnb for private parking.” “When people pull into a spot, they’re not going to think, ‘Wow. That slab of concrete was awesome.’ I want to rate this 5-star concrete.” 

Another helpful piece of advice is finding the people that can support your business and move on quickly if they can’t. Griffin’s advice: “Holding onto a disqualified lead for too long is a mistake that many make.” 

The benefits of being a startup in Boston

The benefit of starting a company in Boston, according to Husted, is that “the entrepreneur in Boston is different from the entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.” Golub adds, “I actually think we’re ahead of that Silicon Valley curve.” George observes, “The government is willing to try anything. We have a supportive government in Boston.”