Against the Sharing Economy
Takedowns of the sharing economy are moving from kneejerk Luddite outbursts to detailed, data-driven analyses. Tom Slee’s What’s Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy, an excerpt of which is running in Jacobin, goes after the usual suspects (Airbnb, Uber) for the usual offense (helping themselves, not communities). Slee’s argument is based on the relative opacity of these firms’ practices. Staying private gives them “maximum flexibility” and imposes far less government-mandated transparency, thus creating a “perfect storm of bad incentives.” In particular, Slee gives examples of how the companies manipulate proprietary data as a PR tool, disseminating misleading data points and commissioning even more misleading reports, choosing which data to share with cities and drivers — and which to keep under wraps. We’re still waiting for a truly balanced look at the industry that gives weight (if not necessarily equal weight) to both its strengths and weaknesses. Until then, Slee’s evidence-heavy essay reminds us that the arguments against the sharing giants can’t be easily dismissed.
Extreme Transparency for Sale
Before putting social analytics tool ThinkUp up for sale, cofounder Anil Dash laid out terms any potential buyer must meet to qualify, including commitments to protect user data and refunds for paid subscribers if they don’t like the new owner. “We’re publicly sharing our plans for ThinkUp because we know it’s the best way to protect our users,” Dash wrote. We hope this extreme transparency and customer advocacy works; it would serve as a terrific precedent.
Samsung to Act More Like a Startup … Starting in a Few Months
Leaders at Samsung literally raised their hands in a ceremony and took a pledge (AP) this week to act more like a startup. The company plans to reduce hierarchy and meetings and eliminate the “top-down corporate culture” that stands in the way of innovation. Samsung is one of the biggest sellers of smartphones but profit margins are slimming. It plans to enter the software and AI spaces, but, as a former employee said, “Samsung’s upper management just inherently doesn’t understand software.” You might have been able to say the same about hardware giant GE a decade ago. Now it’s on track to become one of the largest software companies in the world. Plans for Samsung to be more like a startup aren’t due until June; that alone suggests how far the company has to go.
If You Like Uber and Amazon, Thank the Count of Champagne
What do you need to do to understand how platform markets work? Look at medieval France (HBR) of course.
Next Stop, Motor City
If you’re joining us for NewCo Detroit on April 13, our festival of organizations making positive change, you may wish to see which companies one of our editors is visiting, as well as profiles of Detroit NewCos Shinola, Detroit Venture Partners, Ponyride, Detroit Farm and Garden, and Detroit Bikes.
Photo: Open Grid Scheduler
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