The Sharing Economy Comes of Age at SXSW 2013

The sharing economy is growing up and its leaders are ready to tackle the tough questions about their businesses on the tech world’s biggest stage.

This week, the SXSW Interactive Festival revealed the panel submissions for its 2013 gathering and opened the field for public voting. The crop of pitches reflects the transition of collaborative consumption from a trendy buzzword to a serious industry.

The visibility of peer-to-peer marketplaces skyrocketed over the last 18 months. Widely viewed by technology observers as a “top trend to watch” last year, peer-to-peer sharing is now finding its footing in a few key categories.

As the industry matures and its user base broadens, focus will increasingly fall on the hard questions: how sharing marketplaces can consistently deliver quality experiences, ensure trust and safety for participants, and generate financial value for users, investors, and local economies.

As Commmunity Manager for Lyft, I took the lead in organizing a panel with John Zimmer of Lyft and Jeff Miller of Wheelz on how to design outstanding peer-to-peer transportation experiences. Here is a brief summary of that session and three others that address the biggest challenges facing the sharing economy as it comes of age.

I hope you’ll join me in voting for all of these contenders so the collaborative consumption community can tell its evolving story at next year’s SXSW. 

Click through to view each panel on the SXSW website and click the "Thumbs Up" icon next to each submission to vote. A quick site registration is required.

Shaping UX When Users are at the Wheel

Featuring: Lyft, Wheelz

How do you maintain the quality of your service when your customers are also your suppliers? This is one of the biggest challenges facing this new generation of peer-to-peer businesses, like ridesharing platforms Lyft and Zimride and peer-to-peer carsharing company Wheelz. In this presentation, COO John Zimmer of Lyft and Zimride and Wheelz CEO Jeff Miller dive deeper into the challenges and opportunities for user experience design in the emerging peer-to-peer landscape.

The Sharing Economy Trust Throwdown

Featuring: Legit, TrustCloud, Shareable, Lenddo

In an economy driven by transactions between strangers, whom do we trust? Several startups have emerged to address this problem. While their approaches differ, all propose portable metrics to allow users to carry their reputations across multiple sharing platforms. This session pits advocates against skeptics in a debate on the best way forward.

David Over Goliath: The Power of the Invisible Economy

Featuring: Airbnb, RelayRides, Tim O’Reilly, Etsy

The groundswell of activity in peer-to-peer marketplaces over the last few years has stimulated the rise of a new economy, yet society struggles to measure its impact using traditional measures. Bringing together three entrepreneurs at the helm of this new economy and technology thought leader Tim O'Reilly, this panel will debate both the power and the problems of this societal and economic shift.

Reputation as a Currency: is the Resume Extinct?

Featuring: TaskRabbit

Could your online reputation replace traditional validation engines? Some argue that a robust history of transactional behavior online is a better indicator of future behavior than traditional financial metrics used by credit bureaus. In this session, TaskRabbit Founder and CEO Leah Busque will discuss how we've come from the age of credit -— which transformed commerce — to the age of social capital, which is fundamentally changing the way we think about markets, power, online connections, and personal identity.

Panel summaries adapted from a blog post by Lauren Anderson of Collaborative Consumption.

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