By Rick Devine, Founder and CEO, Talentsky, Inc.
Nearly 10 years ago, The Economist wrote an article on a new economic concept they called the sharing economy and featured companies like Airbnb. Fast forward to the present-day, and the success of Airbnb speaks for itself, including over $100b in economic contribution with 4m hosts making money on the platform. Over the years, we have watched and admired the success of Airbnb, now a public company with $8b in revenue, an operating margin of over 20%, and a valuation of over $60b. I have also been impressed with co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky for his leadership during the pandemic and the branding of Airbnb as a force for positive social change. The former CMO of Airbnb once told me how Brian was so excited to call the new logo the “Belo,” short for Belonging. It’s pretty cool when a founder leads a company with the goal of powering such a positive human trait. Who doesn't want to feel a sense of belonging?
I think we would all agree that Airbnb built the standard for the residential sharing economy. If anyone in the world wants to rent their extra room, barn, tree-house, or farm, the first brand they think of is Airbnb. But what is the driving force behind their success? For that answer, let’s go back 300 years to one of the pioneers of modern economic thinking – Adam Smith. What he suggested was that the most powerful economies will be driven by the self-interest of the individual, he called it the invisible hand. In the case of Airbnb, I believe this is true. People rent their homes to make money with the byproduct of social impact, like eating vegetables for health reasons, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions. Brian Chesky integrated his social crusade around a new economic force of empowering the self-serving interest of people. Is there anything wrong with this? I don’t think so. There are many examples of businesses thriving by powering users with an underlying personal motivation.
I believe Airbnb is the correct model to solve the skill standardization challenge. Here is what I mean. In one scenario you ask people to share their skills to help others connect and make the world a better place, which is cool. In another scenario, you ask people to share their skills, make the world a better place, AND make extra money. Which offer do you think will drive more engagement? We have tested this, and can assure you the second scenario is more compelling to people. Now, how do you turn this self-serving motivation into a global skill standard? The first step is to create a beautiful and easy to use platform to share skills. The second is to motivate users to post their skills, share with others, and make money teaching others. The invisible hand will solve the skill standardization challenge in America.
Welcome to the skill-sharing economy.