A Year to Trust in the Sharing Economy

trust2A letter from the CEO trustcloud.com

I might have overshared this year.

I shared keys to my NYC apartment on Airbnb, rides through San Francisco in a Sidecar, and my workload with TaskRabbits. I’m not alone– people worldwide are sharing more than ever with millions of room-nights booked, cars rented, and dogs walked by reputable strangers. The movement is called The Sharing EconomyCollaborative Consumption, or as Mary Meeker calls it, living Asset Light.

Flush with VC funding, the movement scaled fast in 2012– but not without growing pains:
A quick look at recent sharing history would give anyone pause before sharing with a stranger. Home sharing market leader Airbnb had a redux of it’s 2011 EJ incident with the so-called airbed & brothel snafu where a Swedish apartment was literally pimped-out. Carsharing had it’s own collisions with the luxury carsharing service HiGear shutting down due to thefts, car sharer RelayRides’ liability issues with a fatality crash, andregulatory fines for on-demand ride-sharers.

These events highlighted that trust between strangers in peer-to-peer marketplaces must keep pace with their own rapid growth. In the offline world, hotels have long adopted star ratings, rental cars are licensed and insured by brands spend billions to give consumers confidence to buy. Since online, peer to-peer marketplaces powered by micro-entrepreneurs don’t have time to brand themselves or vet strangers, they are much less efficient as buyers and sellers waste time sizing each other up, figuring out a schedule and even haggling over price before committing. Trust can make these transactions much faster.

There’s help from startups like TrustCloudLegitMiicardZerply andConnect.me who are starting to surface indicators of identity, trustworthiness, and context. Where once the volunteering of trustworthy data was rare, endorsements, a key component of offline trust, made it’s mainstream debut on Linkedin.

Trust in the sharing economy is evolving in 2013:

Data to the People

Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee believes that personal data should be portable and owned by users who should claim and leverage this data. The personal data ecosystem continues to rapidly evolve as reputation.com launches personal data vaultsklout seeks new uses for it’s influence index, and about.me empowers anyone to have attractive personal homepages.

Fast Trust

Peer-to-peer marketplaces will realize that portable trust for users across different sharing marketplaces will speed their adoption, transactions, and ultimately profits. Users that have built years of goodwill on sites like eBay and Linkedin will be able to leverage their good name in the sharing economy. Organizations like Respect Network are starting to define standards of interoperability between trusted data providers.

Risk & Regulation

As within any emerging industry, government and established businesses are entering the conversation and uncovering insurance risks, taxes and policies affecting these new businesses. In reaction, entities such as the Bay Area Sharing Coalition and the Collaborative Economy Coalitionare beginning to pave the way to regulate these new businesses.

In light of all these changes, maybe I didn’t overshare in 2012.

In fact, I hope to share more because it is not only worth the time and money, but improved trust online also gives me peace of mind when handing my keys to that trustworthy stranger in 2013.

This post was written by Xin Chung, co-founder and CEO of TrustCloud.

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