Launching a platform business is difficult and complex. For entrepreneurs focused on sharing, it can be even more challenging, especially if they operate a two-sided marketplace.
To lower the barriers to entry, a range of services have emerged to support sharing economy and platform cooperative startups. The services allow entrepreneurs to save money, and better manage users and service providers, while also giving them more space to focus on their core business – sharing.
“Ultimately if you want to provide true on-demand services, you need to increase your scale in order to survive, or the economies of scale don’t work out,” said Derek Cheng, senior director of corporate and content marketing at Tipalti. “A lot of sharing economy companies have fairly low margins, and don’t want to burn capital on hiring staff to do mundane things,” he says.
In this listicle, we highlight Tipalti and several other companies that offer services to support sharing economy and platform cooperative startups:
1. Tipalti — Vendor payments
Payments to platform providers like drivers, hosts, and freelancers might seem straightforward at first glance, but they’re complicated by different currencies, payment methods, regulations, taxes, and other complexities. Taking its name from the Hebrew word meaning “I took care of it,” Tipalti automates vendor payments making it less complex, time consuming, and generally reducing the burden on sharing economy companies. Tipalti manages typical supplier and partner payments as well. Check out this interview of Tipalti CEO, Chen Amit, to learn more about how they help all types of online platforms grow.
2. PlatformOS – Online marketplaces
A core focus of many sharing economy companies is connecting users services or goods. To do that, PlatformOS allows anyone to easily build a marketplace, from startups to big brands. It also allows you to quickly setup customizable marketplace functionality on your website or app. They also have a pay-for-use model, which means small or new companies only pay for the benefits they use.
3. Twilio – Cloud communications
Twilio allows you to easily integrate phone calling and SMS functionality into your website or platform. Twilio also allows you to hide user phone numbers so that users can connect without sharing personal data. Their pricing is based on usage by minute or by text message.
4. Checkr – Background checks
Safety is a major concern for users of sharing economy services. It’s challenging, especially as communities scale, to ensure that everyone using the platform does not mean harm. We have seen this become a major issue for Uber, Airbnb, and other gig platforms, and it is a huge concern for sharing economy and platform cooperatives, who face larger risks to their reputation.
Checkr provides modern background checks for companies and startups. It’s used by Grubhub, Instacart, and others in the gig economy.
5. Extole — Referral marketing
Think about how you first heard about Uber, Airbnb, or another of the massive, venture-capital-backed gig economy platforms. It was likely through a referral, perhaps with a new-user code. Extole helps sharing economy platforms use referral marketing techniques to reach new customers. They have loyalty programs and tools for retailers and membership organizations.
6. Stocksy United – Photos and video
Photos and videos are essential for sharing economy companies to tell their story to potential users and other community members. Stocky is a platform cooperative owned by its photographer members. It allows users to download stock photos or work with creators directly. They have a pay-per-image or video model, compared with the subscription model of other stock photo sites.
7. MyTurn – Lending Library Software as a Service
If you want to start a lending library in your neighborhood, there’s probably no better choice for managing your inventory than MyTurn, which serves hundreds of lending libraries throughout North America and beyond. Social entrepreneurs can access MyTurn’s robust services and excellent customer service through a reasonable monthly service fee. Through its hundreds of customers, MyTurn processes nearly one million sharing transactions per year. Check out Shareable’s in-depth interview of MyTurn’s CEO, Gene Homicki, here to learn more about MyTurn and Shareable’s guide to starting a tool library here.
8. Hyperwallet and Stripe – Payment processing
Stripe and Hyperwallet both allow for sharing economy companies to quickly receive payments online or in-person. Stripe is known for having lower fees than other processors, making it a popular choice among small businesses, and it can work with existing phones and tablets. Hyperwallet is similar to Stripe but focused on global businesses and has multi-currency capabilities so it is a better fit for enterprises with large global trade.
9. Everflow – Partnership marketing
Everflow is a platform for creating promo codes and other marketing offers. It can produce codes automatically, has detailed analytics and tracking, and fraud-detecting tools. Pricing is based on clicks and starts at $200 a month. Data can be integrated with a variety of customer relationship management tools.
10. Sharetribe – Online marketplaces
Sharetribe is designed for the collaborative economy and is the marketplace tool of choice of many platform cooperatives. It requires little technical skill and allows enterprises to cheaply rent or sell goods, spaces, or services online.
Moreover, Sharetribe can integrate directly with Stripe and Google Analytics so that you can process payments and track analytics directly. Whatever code and data you create on Sharetribe is yours in perpetuity, meaning you can later shift to separate or self-built platform without losing your data. There are three price tiers based on the number of users.
Tipalti, PlatformOS, Stocksy, and MyTurn are Shareable sponsors.