How to come up with the next unicorn in the sharing economy

“Become a unicorn”? I hear you say. “She’s clearly on something.”
Other than a lot of caffeine, and probably too much sugar, I’m sadly not. But to start by clearing up this term for any of you that haven’t heard it- a ‘unicorn’ business is one valued at $1 billion or more. I’m sure the term pertains to the rareness, and perhaps ‘magical element’ that applies to all such businesses. Either that, or perhaps the originator was on something.

Anyway the question everyone would like to know is, how can I come up with the next unicorn idea? Well folks, I’m going to give you the solution, within the sharing economy at least.
It all boils down to a little thing called ‘excess capacity’. This is, exactly what it says on the tin- stuff that is not being used. All the unicorn businesses that have emerged within the sharing economy recently have been built around excess capacity in one form or another. They have identified an area where something is not being used to it’s full potential, and found a way to monetise it. Let’s run through a few-
Airbnb – monetising spare rooms in your house
Uber – monetising cars not being used
Blabla car – turning the spare seats in your car into money
Task Rabbit – monetising people’s free time, and sometimes skills
Lending Club – monetising people’s dormant savings
Just Park – monetising your empty driveway.
The list goes on but I’m sure you’ve got the idea. What all these businesses have in common, is a means of turning an asset, which you already have, into money. Have you ever, when you were a bit younger perhaps, whiling away long summer holidays, Googled the phrase ‘how to make extra cash’ in a moment of desperation? Perhaps yet another of your friends has instagrammed the new pair of trainers you’ve been wanting but can’t afford, or you’ve had to turn down yet another social occasion due to lack of funds. However much money we have, it’s safe to say we usually want more, and preferably, with little effort. All these businesses are doing, is giving you a new option, to better use something you already have.
But excess capacity goes further than these immediate things that spring to mind. Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar, is a big visionary on this topic. She believes, as do we at Fat Lama, that “the future will be made: Sharing of Excess Capacity on Open Platforms”. She really makes you open your eyes to all the excess capacity there is around us. The energy you exert while cycling home every day, the wifi from every home which is floating around not being used, the person sitting in traffic not being able to do anything. BT have introduced FON hotspots, which allow you to tap into other people’s wifi that isn’t being used. We’ve invented handsfree phones in our cars, to conduct our telephone business while we drive. And CydeKick have invented a means of harnessing the energy we spend pedalling, using it to charge our phones and power our bike lights as we go.
So how can we become a unicorn with this? Once you’ve started thinking along these lines, it shouldn’t be too hard. All you need to do is keep identifying examples of excess capacity which are happening all around, and find a feasible solution to one. Take Fat Lama for instance, we were baffled that you can share your home, car, money, garage and driveway… but no one has provided a suitable way of sharing all your other stuff? Think about a block of flats, there’s most likely an iron, ironing board and hover in every single one. There’s probably a tool kit and drill in at least 30% of them. Not to mention suitcases, airbeds, sleeping bags, cool boxes and holiday kit. In fact the dweller of every flat is actually struggling to find enough space to keep these things. Imagine if you could all just share. How many would you need then?
Learning to harness excess capacity is happening, and needs to happen to keep our planet afloat. We’re literally drowning under the weight of our own consumerism, and the amount of ‘stuff’ we all have. And we’re sucking the planet dry of resources, in order to go on building these things, as we go. It’s not likely that we’re all going to move away from our high powered lifestyles and start moving back to frugal living any time soon, so we need to find another solution. Learning to recycle is a great example of how we can make our non-renewable energy sources stretch further. Sharing our stuff is another. And we’re not calling on your good will and duty to the fellow man here. No far from it, what we propose benefits you most of all. This is why the sharing economy really is awesome, there is no downside. If I have a set of golf clubs I’m not using, allowing someone else to use them makes me that extra bit of disposable income I wanted, maybe even helping make back the money I spent on them in the first place. Meanwhile, the person renting has saved money and space in their house by using mine instead of buying some. And the planet is smiling as it’s had to manufacture one less set of golf clubs! There really is nothing not to like.
So if you fancy yourself as a unicorn, (and a champion of our planet) then start looking for a gap in the sharing economy landscape, and work out what gap you want to fill. We’ve provided a map of the current landscape to give you a starting point. And in the meantime, while you’re waiting for your own personal eureka moment to hit, get yourself some extra pocket money and use Fat Lama!