By Lies van den Eijnden

Our last Meetup of the year was a full house with a speakers presenting various insights. Harmen van Sprang (shareNL) started with a recap of last year, followed by Nanette Schippers (City of Amsterdam) about the proactive approach of Amsterdam to continue to be a sharing city, Kaya Bouma (Volkskrant) with critical reflections on the sharing economy and Martin Smit (Sandd) about the inspiring ways of a traditional player catching-up in the new economy. 

A perfect place for looking back: Harmen van Sprang kicked off with a keynote in what happened to be the same room in which he held his first keynote ever about the collaborative economy. Now, as shareNL co-founder, he looked back at a year full of events, meet-ups, a book release, and presentations all over the world. With a growing team, shareNL has been spreading the word from London, Brussels, Paris and Oslo to Tel Aviv, Seoul and Tokyo. While the collaborative economy started with a handful of enthusiasts, it is slowly but surely becoming more common in our society. Thankful for all the actions from players in the field he adds “we have come a long way and we would not have been where we are now without you, next generation of sharers! Together we will deal with challenges and opportunities, we will make this work”. 

City of Amsterdam
After Harmen’s energy boosting talk, Nanette Schippers, program manager from City of Amsterdam, elaborated about the proactive approach of Amsterdam to reap the benefits of the collaborative economy. One example is the deal with Airbnb, in which was agreed to allow Amsterdam citizens to rent out their homes for up to 60 nights a year, to a maximum of four people at the same time. At the same time, Nanette Schippers emphasizes that the collaborative economy is much more than just Airbnb. In order to stay a pioneer in the collaborative economy, the municipality of Amsterdam is working together with, instead of against platforms.  In her own words: "If we want to stay a Sharing City we have to see what's out there instead of just thinking it up ourselves". A few weeks ago they organized a workshop in which they invited sharing city platforms to brainstorm about how city councillors can help create a sustainable sharing city for everyone. This led to interesting and helpful insights.

With the aim to practice what you preach, the municipality initiated some projects: 
•    The city pass (Stadspas) to connect people - especially people with a low income and elderly - with sharing platforms such as Thuisafgehaald (meal-sharing) and Peerby (asset-sharing). 
•    The city provides free access to unused city-owned offices for organisations with a social purpose. 

Startup Pitches
Besides the proactive approach of the city, Amsterdam is home to an impressive and growing amount of sharing businesses. Thirteen businesses pitched their role in the collaborative economy, including MotoShare (motor sharing), Qwobble (knowledge sharing), Felyx (e-scooters sharing), Storage Share, Toogethr (car sharing), Shareplanet (vehicle sharing) Jungo (peer-to-peer mortgage), Heroes&Friends (crowd-funding), Homerr (package delivery), Adventures of the Valparaíso (sharing stories), ParkFlyRent (car sharing), Djeepo (storage sharing) and WeHelpen (skills sharing). 

Silicon Valley
All the way from Silicon Valley, the founder of Crowd Companies Jeremiah Owyang shared his insights about trends in the collaborative economy. According to Jeremiah, the collaborative economy is reaching the maturity phase – that it is becoming the new norm, to which end people will talk about it less. Moreover, Jeremiah expects that investments will go down and a shake-out of sharing businesses will occur. In other words, only a few successful sharing businesses will survive. This does not imply that the adoption (the amount of people using sharing platforms) will decrease - on the contrary: adoption will continue to grow since the few firms will spent more time and money on marketing. 

Kaya Bouma, journalist from the Volkskrant returned the focus to the Netherlands. With 21 articles published about the collaborative economy she was one of the pioneers writing about the subject. She explains how the movement started with idealistic ideas about access instead of ownership (often using the popular power drill example which is only used 15 minutes of its entire lifetime). However, a couple years later the success cases are big commercial companies from the US. Her critical view on the collaborative economy led to some critical remarks from the audience. What about all the start-ups that just pitched their ideas? Kaya agrees that a lot of local sharing platforms like WeHelpen and Peerby add value to our society but the rapid growth of companies like Airbnb and Uber made her critical about the direction the collaborative economy is heading. 

Martin Smit, innovation manager from Sandd, closed the meet-up with his story about how a big traditional company got inspired by the collaborative economy. Sandd recognizes the need to keep up with all the technological developments: “we need to go digital and make use of smart phones and other technologies”. By working together with sharing start-ups Sandd seeks to learn from their technological advancements. Sandd started pilot projects with smart technologies and is constantly looking for ways to empower their deliverers, to give them more opportunities to earn money for every hour they drive around. Where are these progressive and inspiring projects going to lead Sandd? We’ll be hearing more from them for sure!

The bigger picture
Looking at the big picture, Pieter van de Glind concludes that the collaborative economy with its new technologies is an opportunity that we should grasp. It is a movement that benefits all kinds of different stakeholders, and will continue to benefit them when we manage to embrace both its challenges and opportunities in a collaborative and optimistic manner. And who knows, maybe the next step for the collaborative economy is becoming an autonomous one.

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