I keep my ear on the ground in the as to what’s happening in the sharing economy. So, I’m publishing a bi-monthly series on who I’ve met and what I’ve learned. There are so many interesting initiatives and people that might not ever hear about, so the intent is keep you on the pulse of the sharing economy, inspire collaborations, and offer a sounding board for all of us to generate a truly shared economy.

Hard to find wine from Italy

Grabr Daria Rebenok’s eyes light up when she asks, “shouldn’t you be able to do peer-to-peer transactions with anyone, anywhere in the world?” It turns out that, a lot of retail doesn’t ship worldwide. For example, if you want something created by a crafter on Etsy, they probably won’t ship it to you if you’re outside of the U.S. And what about your favorite cheese from Italy or that bottle of wine from a tiny winery in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t ship? Grabr to the rescue! With Grabr, Travelers pick up goods for people who request them while they are out and about and make a bit of money in the process to pay for their flights and whatnot. When I first heard this idea, I didn’t believe it could work. But in four months, they’ve had $1,000,000 in product requests added to the site and 20% have been delivered. Apparently, flight attendants, frequent travelers, and those who glob trot love the idea of picking up something special for someone else, sharing extra suitcase space while they’re traveling, pocketing some cash and possibly new friends, along the way. Daria and Grabr are definitely onto something – think of this as the peer-to-peer version of something like Alibaba.com.

Onfido Onfido lets you verify anyone in the world in seconds, using face recognition technology and a whole host of indicators and data. They are strictly a B2B proposition and they currently work with TaskRabbit, Blah Blah Car (in Europe), and local car sharing platform, Turo. When I spoke with Husayn Kassai one of three founders, he really impressed me with his position on the value and merit of the sharing economy and he’s excitement over being the driver of more and deeper human interaction. They have a team of 10 in San Francisco and a much larger team in London and have been around for nearly four years, so they’re in a good position to keep up the momentum in the sharing economy and beyond (not to mention, they just scored $25 million in funding on April of 2016). Husayn was able to explain to me why we don’t have a portable reputation management system for individuals yet, wholly owned by the people they represent, on the blockchain. Apparently, there are still too many ways that people could cheat system and “borrow” identities, but On Fido is working on a solution to make it possible in the near future!

Jenny Feinberg at Makespace

Makespace Coworking – A number of people have talked about how I had to meet Jenny Feinberg, and I remember hearing whispers about her creative community that met at coffee shops, traditional coworking space, and eventually inhabited the Creativity Palace in the Castro. Last week was the first time we really had a sit down, one-to-one conversation. Makespace and Jenny are simply magical. We spoke about how marrying community with a sustainable business model, especially a scalable one, might be at odds. Makespace is currently going through a transition of space and models, but she’s had more than 100 events, supported writers, painters, creative entrepreneurs, makers, therapists, and others who don’t quite fit into any traditional mold into a beautiful, vibrant community that celebrates the human spirit. While Makespace may be a bit ahead of the times in San Francisco currently, Jenny was inspired to create Makespace for people based on the peace and nurturing creative spirit she felt while in Bali, some number of years ago. If you want to support her in supporting others, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you!

Test driving GenZe Scooter

GenZe ScootersBarry Gwin owns a scooter shop on 10th Street. Apparently, he’s been in business forever (started the shop while in high school in 1985) —and he sees electric bikes as being the future. As part of that, he’s gearing his business for change and it staying up on the latest trend of electric scooters, which seem to scoot around laws and expensive maintenance. The bikes have a battery pack that pops off the bike, has a strap, and can be carted to an apartment and recharged with a regular electrical outlet. And get this: You can park the bike forever in residential parking, without a permit. There’s some weird law in San Francisco about non-motorized scooters that gives people the right to park for an unlimited period of time in 2 hours zones all over the city (this excludes metered spots). The Elektroroller bike can go 30-60 miles, depending on your size, how you drive it, and what type of terrain you’re covering. Insurance is cheap and you don’t need to or legally have to register the bike because it’s considered a moped, rated for no higher than 30mph. With a price tag of $2,999, this thing seems like it would pay for itself fairly quick, especially for on-demand economy workers, zipping around from one location to the next. Scoot Networks, shared scooters will be replacing their whole fleet with GenZe on June 19th. If you head into San Francisco Scooter Centre, mention my name and ask Barry to test drive the GenZe!

Elma Living– Living in San Francisco is so expensive that it’s both an opportunity and huge cause of distress for those figuring out how to “make it” in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Coliving, which started as a grassroots movement, and is charging toward a business model for new housing, has taken on many forms as of late. Zack Howittfounded Elma Living, which has a handful of victorian houses and a condo, which has been converted with extra rooms, via temporary, and for all intents and purposes, legal partitions, which converts a $7,000/month, 3 bedroom into a 7 bedroom place, providing residents with cheaper rent, more access to each other, the communal space, and the luxury grounds by which they are surrounded by: think fancy pool, spa, state of the art gym, and regal entertaining areas for parties. While developers might be slow the draw on building larger sized coliving developments, relying on outdated forms of housing instead, people like Zack aren’t waiting around… they are making it happen in existing buildings, playing with the limits of zoning, occupancy, and what a livable, affordable environment is. When your focus is people and access, housing needs change and we’re definitely in process of witnessing that transition. Go Zack!

My Basic Income – There are tons of basic income experiments, but Cameron Ottens and his co-founder didn’t wait for a grant or the permission of a giant research project. They started where they are, with the resources they have, right now. The team crowdfunded $15K to gift to a lucky recipient as part of the My Basic Income experiment to see what offering financial assistance might do for someone, heck… anyone. 3,000 people entered and the winner was chosen completely randomly.


The man chosen (in front of a live audience), Edwin, who lives in Sarasota, Florida said he would “save the money for a rainy day.” I think what’s unique about this group is the way they are going about studying basic income from the ground up, using the crowd, and being inclusionary. Cameron is currently a TaskRabbit and seems to think a lot about basic income and the power of this concept to give every person the right to own their own reality, have mobility and the freedom of choice (for example, in case of being in a less than ideal situation in a job), and the general personal agency to build the truth one dreams up. What’s not to love about that?

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In front of RolltoRio.com Airstream

Roll to Rio – Ever wanted to say, f-it all and take a trip across the country, ahem, multiple continents in an Airstream?! Ha. Me too. Well, John Hazelwood, founder of SharingXchange is doing just that. He’s headed all the way to Rio for the Olympics, in fact!  As part of his fundraising adventure and marketing the booking engine he’s created for the sharing economy, John is on an adventure… we caught up near Pier 39 in San Francisco, where he’d parked his big rig. Since we were both in between meetings and it was already a Saturday, we cruised from on part of town to another and chatted briefly about his plans, the aggregator he’s built (think Kayak, but for the sharing economy), and his history as an entrepreneur. He’s definitely onto something and if you want to check out the most interesting ways to experience the sharing economy ShareXchange.com will show you cool, novel, and unique listings first, and will save you the headache of having to run around on multiple sites.