The Spare Capacity Economy

I recently came across Lyft.me in a Facebook ad and it caught my interest. It’s another example of something I describe as the Spare Capacity Economy – the marketplace of individuals selling unused resources such as a spare room or unused electronics. The concept in itself is not new; Craiglist, Kijiji and eBay and to a lesser degree VRBO.com have been the dominant players in this space and the space has remained stagnant for quite a while until the emergence of AirBnB. AirBnB is the iPhone of this space – it has turned this space by making it cool to share your space. Outside of AirBnB, there are some interesting and exciting services that have launched recently.

Lyft.me is interesting because it’s a different spin to the changes we’re seeing in the taxi industry. Hailo and Uber are extensions to the existing industry – they have for the most part added a smarter way of hailing cabs and paying for it. Lyft.me seems to allow you to be driven at a discount. Useful scenarios for me would be to be driven longer distances like the airport.

HealthyOut is targeted for those who want to eat healthy but don’t have the time to cook and is potentially an additional revenue stream for restaurants. HealthyOut partners with existing businesses and leveraging existing menu items with minor modifications to them. The site allows you to choose a meal based on what you feel like eating. In my consulting days at Deloitte, it would have been extremely nice to have the option to have a healthy option when working stupidly long hours on projects.  Frankly, even if I didn’t care about eating healthy, the ability to choose a restaurant based on what I feel like is a great feature.

EatWith is another food based start-up that allows people who love cooking and entertaining to open up their space to folks who enjoy eating. It’s an interesting way to be exposed to other styles of cooking. I can see foodies really enjoying this start-up. It’s an easy way for those to try one another’s cooking and gain a new friend in the exchange.

The one thing that all these sites have in common is that they have very friendly UIs making it easy for users to find the information they need and they focus on a very specific user need. I’ve never had the opportunity to try any of these services as they’re yet to make it to Toronto but I’m continuing to watch with curiosity and interest.