November 28th, 2014 The Sharing Economy and Its Many Challenges

Meetup co-founder and CEO Scott Heiferman and NYU’s Arun Sundararajan could not be more opposite in disposition. Heiferman is intense with a booming voice. Sundararajan oozes professorial cool. But they share one thing. They strongly believe in the collaborative peer-to-peer sharing economy. 

“F—k Wall Street,” Heiferman intoned, summing up his thoughts on how the sharing economy can give the old vanguard of capitalism a run for its money. What an opening salvo for The NY Sharing Economy meetup hosted by Odile Beniflah last November 28 in the Soho district.

Sundararajan believes the sharing economy will have a significant economic impact on the country’s economic health. “It will expand consumption through variety, raise productivity and inspire innovation and entrepreneurship.”

He ruminated on the blurring of lines between the personal and professional where majority of people will work for themselves. It’s happening already when you lend your apartment to strangers.

As micro entrepreneurship grows, however, he said it will create new challenges on top of the opportunities in an ever-growing invisible social infrastructure. “(We are) making the economy less individualistic, less solitary,” Sundararajan said.

One example is where ride-sharing among strangers is now common. It’s ride selling, more than ride sharing, according to Heiferman

“We are now introducing a level of trust. The baseline of trust will go up,” he said.

In defense of how one startups trump another old business, Heiferman said it’s important also for startups to think of a part for people who still do things the old way. In not so many words, he likes us to have a real community.

Both think the next two years will be talk about protection, regulations, safety. 

As we move to a freelance economy, people will realize that they don’t have benefits. The sharing economy needs to protect its providers, if pension will go away. Many serious regulatory obstacles will also need to be addressed.