Why the peer-to-peer phenomenon is the next big thing

Entrepreneur Matt Ovenden, a lifelong boating enthusiast, founded Borrow A Boat in 2016 – the UK’s first peer-to-peer boat charter marketplace aimed at helping more people get on the water for less. Following the success of Airbnb and Uber, Matt believes the peer to peer business model will continue to disrupt entire industries over the coming years. Here Matt discusses how he started his own peer-to-peer business and why the sharing revolution is only just getting started…

When people cite the sharing economy Airbnb and Uber are by far the most quoted examples. These brands are the pin ups of the peer to peer model of business and it feels like every new start up wants to position itself as the “Airbnb of [insert industry here]”.

But while there is no doubt these phrases are becoming tired and investors much dream of ejector chairs every time they here an entrepreneur refer to their business as “the next Uber” – you can’t argue with the fact the sharing market is booming. According to a recent report by PWC the sharing economy will be worth £140bn by 2025 with growth across travel, finance and service industries in particular.

So what has changed and why are global industries being turned upside down my communities sharing with each other? Because they can bring better value services, and usually an enhanced service with more choice and variety – so the customer wins. Trust is a key component for making it work, but with the likes of Airbnb and Uber, peer-to-peer is now becoming “normalised”. Consumer confidence in peer to peer sharing businesses has grown exponentially. Consider for a second that when Uber first reached out to investors 150 of the 165 people they emailed didn’t ever bother to respond. With hindsight it’s easy to snigger, but at the time smart phones and GPS technology were new fangled – who could have imagined that Uber would reach a $50 billion valuation one year earlier than Facebook! Be honest you didn’t.

So here we are in 2017 and the sharing economy is already a part of all of our lives. The question on most investors lips is “where can we go from here?” As someone who runs a peer-to-peer business myself I believe the answer is anywhere and everywhere. Perhaps my company Borrow a Boat is a good example of this…

I’ve always been a boat enthusiast and for many years my dream was to buy my own private yacht. After Brexit I felt it would have been too self-indulgent to purchase a boat as the cloud of uncertainty over the economy loomed – after looking into it I also realised it didn’t really make a great deal of economic sense in terms of asset ownership. I don’t own my mobile phone, or my car these days – why do I need to actually own my own boat I thought? This didn’t curb my enthusiasm to get on the water though and I started to look at alternative options. It seemed that every marina I visited was full of stunning boats, most of which remain moored up all year around because their owners only take them out for 5-6 weekends a year.

It dawned on me there was an opportunity to use the peer-to-peer model and bring boat owners and sailing enthusiasts together. Generating an income for stationary boats (paying for those expensive mooring costs) and allowing people who love the sea to get on it without needing to buy a boat, just borrow one. Just over a year later and there are around 4000+ boats on our site and soon we hope to grow to over 10,000. While our ambition is to disrupt both the holiday and the boat charter markets – the same logic could be applied to almost every industry. From crowdfunding and accounting to travel and transport – pioneering peer-to-peer brands have popped up in every sector. The demand may have originally be driven by millennials, but increasingly these services are being used by all generations – as we have seen with our own business.

Why is this? Simply because consumers want more for less. They want better quality services, that are transparent, ethical and low cost. They want choice, and variety, and value, on their terms – easily accessible through their smartphone or laptop. There is also the added bonus that sharing resources (i.e borrowing a car, house or boat) has an added environmental benefit, as we evolve to service models away from individual product purchasing.

Of course, another reason consumers really love peer-to-peer businesses is because of its so easy to use. The challenge, therefore, facing anyone in the sector is ensuring the technology keeps up with the demand. As soon as that starts to buckle and, for example, hiring an Uber is more hassle than waving down a cab, the wheels could quite dramatically fall off; but growing consumer and investor confidence suggests this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

For more info visit www.borrowaboat.com

By CEO and Founder of Borrow A Boat, Matt Ovenden

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