The UNSHARING ON-DEMAND economy. Of giving a new name to an old scam…

rickshaw 1.jpgI lived through the 2000s’ “new economy”. It was supposed to be wonderful. Internet sales were to sky rocket and expand with no end in sight, very much like the infinite expansion of the universe. It was the time when you could take a company public with a business plan written on a single sheet of paper (single sided). Ah, the good ole’ days.

And it all came down crashing. The NASDAQ had risen to over 5,000…and plunged to 2,500. So did the NYSE index. Trillions of $$ of wealth were wiped out. What happened?

For starter, Internet commerce did not expand at the speed of light. Funny how basic human behavior can come in the way of even the shrewdest marketing scam. Then, as cunning as investment bankers are, there is only so much junk they can push on the market before folks realize that, well, it is junk. By that time, the Wall Street crowd had had a field day. But, sooner or later, the music had to stop. It did. The saddest part of it all is this: 1 – even perfectly legit companies with great offering got hammered and 2 – millions of people got screwed, having bought into the “the New Economy is going to make us all rich”.

rickshaw 2You would think that having endured a man-made tsunami, we would collectively become wiser. Apparently not, because in 2008, more trillions of $$ (most of them entirely speculative) got wiped out in the span of THREE months and the economies of the western nations came close to the edge. What was then the reason? Easy enough: that the real-estate market would expand forever like the universe or even faster.

For the past few years, a crop of “new” companies have emerged that want you to think they are “disrupting” existing business models. I think that the Wright brothers, when they flew an airplane for the first time, did actually introduce a disruption worth noting. Reserving an apartment or a cab via an iPhone? Disrupting? Really? Asking groceries to be delivered to my door step via an app? Disrupting? Well, we all have our own notion of what “disruptive” means, right!

Now, here comes a new terminology: the “sharing economy”. Sharing what, if I may ask? Or the “on-demand workers economy”. Hummm…not sure if the folks coming up with these “new” terms realize, but, by and large, we have lived for CENTURIES in the realm of “on-demand workers”. The fellow who has been delivering my favorite Indian food for the past 10 years is very much “on-demand” as well. My ancestors in the Middle Age, in France, were very much “on-demand workers”. I tell you what: it is not because you give your “on-demand workers” an iPhone that you 1 – elevate their status, 2 – increase their wage earning potential and 3 – make them less dependent on your whim.

rickshaw 3I have attached various pictures of“rickshaw” to this posting. Why, would you ask? Why indeed. Simply because the so-called “sharing economy” is very much a derivative of the “richshaw economy”. The Uber and their cohorts are now engaged in the justification of the exploitation of the labor they employ. (Yes, very much like “employees” without the benefits). “We provide opportunities for all these folks to earn a decent income with flexible hour”. How do you spell lie. L- I-E. The likes of Uber control the market their drivers operate in so the Uberites can do as they please…and they do. Surge pricing. Heavy discount. There is nothing. As in N-O-T-H-I-N-G that the drivers can do. Nothing. As for “flexible” hour, it is only as flexible as the amount of money you want to make under Uber Alles. Understand that there is NO difference between a Uber driver today and a poor fellow who pulled a tuk-tuk one hundred year ago.

Now where is the “sharing” in the Uber scam? What is being shared? Certainly not the cost of running a regulated taxi business subject to municipal regulations and taxes. Income? Well, Uber takes 20% of the driving fee. For what precisely? Just think about what exactly they get paid for? And you tell me if it is not a racket. The drivers share what…they certainly share their income with their “employer who does not want to be called an employer but an app”…get out of town! The drivers, however, do NOT share into the insane valuation that Uber’s shareholders are claiming they are worth: $50B…basically to break just about every municipal laws on the books, con the customers, exploit the drivers while showing the finger at everybody in the name of the “sharing economy”. Does it sound familiar? For some of us, it does…it sounds like 2000…2008….and for some us old enough, some scam years before…

rickshaw 4Well, Philippe, this is about technology. No it is NOT. It’s just an app that allows a person to send a message to a driver for a lift. All the other things are just gimmicks.Taxi dispatch via the internet is not new. And the Uber app is not unique. That’s just exploiting the technology developed by a whole lot of other people. But Uber, Airbnb and all the “sharing” economy gigs are NOT technology companies: they are B2C companies who are trying to paint themselves as the “cool guys”…most of them would not recognize a technology innovation if they saw one. They are marketers of the worst kind and have created business models with ZERO innovation and ZERO defensible position. Commodity. Thus they need to spend gargantuan amounts of cash to build market share…market share that has no stickiness to it…but what do they care if they can exit fast and cash out their shares and get handsomely rich in the process. Hey, the “sharing economy”…not sure they will do the “sharing” though.

I saw recently a post on Linkedin by some folks who were all “mesmUberized”:no assets, no cars, no employees (hum not sure about that), no insurance, no regulations, no taxes…and lots and lots of cash. What’s not to like? Amazing. What a new concept! Well, not quite. In the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, this used to be called a name: racketeering. And, if convicted, it would send you to jail. Today, they call it the “sharing economy”…

Amazon recently announced that they wanted “people” to carry packages for delivery. How cool is that? Hey, you do not have a job but you have a cell phone? Got a deal for you! Why don’t you deliver this package on 5th Avenue!

rickshaw 5.jpgThe “sharing economy”. The “on-demand workers”. Give me a big f… break! Call it what it is, please. Scam the consumers. Scam the workers. But please, pretty please, with sugar on top, call it what it is: the UNSHARING economy! Make whatever amount of money you can. But do not try to make us believe that you are doing it “to provide flexible hours and income to workers”. Please this is insulting. We know what you are…you predate on gullible people and displaced workers.Same as folks like you who did it a 100 years ago. Nothing has changed. You did not “disrupt” anything…you called it something else….that’s all!

— 

I have had a very fun life so far, and I am not done yetJ. I am helping high-tech businesses get off the ground and turning around faltering businesses. I am the father of a wonderful 23 years old daughter. I am also a passionate dressage rider. By the way, I do not have a book to sell. I do not want to teach you about the 10 ways to be cool under all circumstances…and YES, I wrote this post myself (for better or worse).

Originally published on LinkedIn.


I am pleased to see I am not the only one to recognise, Uber, Airbnb et al are not the sharing economy.

What we have are serfs working for death star apps.

There is nothing innovative about Uber, we have an unregulated taxi sector unfairly competing with a regulated taxi sector.

Uber is not, as often referred, a technological innovation, disruptive technology destroying an old way of working. It is an unregulated outfit, unfairly competing with legitimate, regulated taxi drivers. From the viewpoint of the Uber driver, working all hours for a pittance, take all the risks, put in the capital investment, meanwhile Uber creams off the profit.

We have, as Paul Mason described at PostCapitalism: Envisaging a Sharing Future, silly money chasing silly projects.

The sharing economy, is people working together,  open co-ops,  collaboration, sharing of knowledge and skills.

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