I’ve had the privilege of working in New Zealand’s health tech sector for four years. I’ve worked with businesses and individuals that improve wellbeing, care and quality of life. Serving in an industry that lets me see the human impact of my work has been incredibly rewarding. Over the last couple years, I’ve been keeping a close eye on how disruptive technologies are being discussed in health tech, with a focus on how they impact our communities. The Sharing Economy has proved particularly interesting.
I recall when Uber was considered a leader in the Sharing Economy. On 19 May 2019, Uber publicly listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Just 10 years after the company was founded, they officially became the biggest and most valuable taxi company in the world. All without owning a single car. For Gig Economy platforms to work well though, supply, demand and reward have to balance out. In 10 years, Uber went from a facilitator grounded in the ideals and goodwill of the Sharing Economy to a gig worker-driven Goliath.
Across New Zealand, you’ll hear a range of opinions around the tech companies who operate in the Sharing Economy. Uber - the taxi company that doesn’t own cars. Air B&B - the hotel chain that doesn’t own any hotels. And Parkable – the carpark company that doesn’t own its own spaces. Companies that put the ease of traditional businesses at the consumer’s fingertips, leveraging speed and supply to reshape how businesses work. Companies who’ve defined our experience of the Sharing Economy.
I presented this topic at a number of health conference in late 2020. Some of the attendees I spoke to were skeptical of the disruptions approaching their industry. They spoke of their need for organizational hierarchy, the role of office space and equipment, and hinted at the permanence of overhead costs. So I asked them to think about a taxi company and then, consider Uber.
Asking a business to compare itself to a taxi business, before then comparing that business to a commercial giant that has disrupted the taxi industry elicited some strong reactions. Over the course of the day, I talked with a number of audience members who were either curious or concerned. The greatest levels of interest came from business owners in heavily-regulated sectors which have been slow to adapt to change. Using Uber as my example, I’d outlined a competitor in their industry – one that only pays staff when they’re working, has a fraction of the overhead costs of traditional businesses, and has automated their services to such an extent that middle managers can be redirected to other roles.
We don’t need to replicate Uber but we can take lessons from the Sharing Economy’s successes and apply them to our own sectors. Thousands of new businesses have sprung up since the start of last year’s lockdowns, and many are looking to disrupt industries that have been slow to change or adapt to modern technologies. This influx of new businesses has left many asking: what about the businesses that already exist in these sectors, and if understanding the problem is key to finding a solution, how can these businesses avoid being a taxi company in the age of Uber?
I’ve worked with businesses of different sizes, structures and operation. I believe the answer to these questions lies in collaboration. The Sharing Economy gives us a chance to re-think employment, impact and business growth, without compromising the people at the center of that business. That’s where Skillet comes in. Skillet is a Sharing Economy marketplace for the services that so many of us need.
Rather than leave traditional businesses out of the equation as Uber did, though, we want to partner with professionals who are open to change and who are ready to update the parts of their service model that hold them back. Using this approach means that we bring more people into the fold. Instead of aspiring to unreasonable levels of leanness, existing businesses can join a digital marketplace that’s designed to build inclusion and accessibility.
If you run a business that’s ready to extend its impact, get in touch at email@example.com. I’m always interested in seeing where your perspectives on the Sharing Economy sit, and if our paths can overlap.
-Scott, CEO & Co-Founder of Skillet
4 February 2021