October 19, 2012
“Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them! There is great freedom in simplicity of living.” -Peace Pilgrim
A whole host of tech startups today want to rid us of unnecessary possessions by letting us share: everything from cars to dresses to hammers and wrenches. And on top of that, we can save a little money and reduce our waste. Here’s a sampling.
Vehicle-sharing startups come in two flavors: some own their own vehicles, while the rest just help you share your vehicle with other people.
Zipcar: One of the earlier car-sharing services. They own a fleet of vehicles, from convertibles to hybrids, minivans to trucks, SUVs to wagons. They offer different plans with annual or monthly fees, plus the cost of each rental. Available in over a dozen US cities and a few international ones.
Car2Go: A car-sharing service owned by Daimler. All the cars are little smart cars painted white and blue. Unlike Zipcar, where you return the car where you left it, Car2Go allows for one-way trips. Available in a handful of US and international cities.
Getaround: A service to share cars with people around you. You either exchange keys with your neighbors, or have Getaround install GPS and door-unlocking technology in your car. Rentals are covered by $1 million in insurance. They also offer a “Getaway” service, where you basically rent your car out for 6 months or more. Launched in 2009.
RelayRides: Similar to Getaround, offering $1 million in insurance. You have to hand out keys to renters, or use a lock box. Launched in 2010.
Airbnb: A service to rent nights in someone’s home or apartment in almost 31,000 cities and 200 countries. After a scandal where a woman’s home was trashed by an Airbnb guest, they added additional security features to verify renter identities and protect hosts from damages.
DeskWanted, Desktime, and Loosecubes: Sites that rent out coworking space by the day or month, available worldwide. “We’re focused on helping match people with not just the right physical environment, but the right social and professional environment,” says founder Campbell McKellar of Loosecubes.
Netflix: One of the earliest sharing startups, Netflix started out by letting customers share DVDs by mail before they introduced online streaming. Sharing DVDs by mail now costs $7.99/month.
Chegg: Coming to the rescue of poor college students everywhere, Chegg lets you rent textbooks. On top of that, they added a community for homework help and course selection.
RentStuff: A site for renting almost anything. To do so, you submit a request for an item, and RentStuff will help find rental companies near you that provide it. Or, you can browse their local rental listings for your area. “It empowers communities to connect in a meaningful way, while making a positive impact on the environment by reducing overconsumption,” says CEO Christopher Jaeger.
Sharing clothes may sound extreme. These services work best for items that have a temporary closet life: ones you outgrow or only use on a special occasion.
99dresses: A site to buy and sell dresses using a virtual currency called “buttons.” Good for special occasion wear that you won’t use twice. They charge no fees. Founded in Australia and expanded to the US.
Couture Circle: Similar to 99dresses, but they charge a 15 percent transaction fee. You can arrange to meet the seller in person if you need a dress ASAP.
Rent the Runway: Rent designer outfits and accessories for 4-8 days at a time. For dresses, they send two sizes to make sure one fits. They have relationships with 160 designers to offer around 90 percent discounts on items.
Bag Borrow or Steal: Rent thousands of designer handbags by the week, month, or season. As with Rent the Runway, items are cleaned and inspected in between rentals.
Sharing has many perks, but it also comes with a few risks. Take a look at what kind of insurance sharing startups offer, what kind of cleaning is done between shares, and what happens if you damage an item. Other than that, as Peace Pilgrim said, enjoy the freedom of a simpler life.
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