Don’t turn this list into 100 startups

By Miguel Rochefort

Let’s think of ~100 scenarios where a resource is underused:

  1. I have a spare couch that nobody sleeps on.
  2. I have a spare bedroom that nobody sleeps in.
  3. I have a spare apartment that nobody lives in.
  4. I have a cottage that nobody lives in during the week.
  5. I have a house that nobody lives in while I’m on vacation.
  6. I have a car that nobody uses while I’m on vacation.
  7. I have spare seats in the car I commute with.
  8. I have spare storage space in the car I commute with.
  9. I have a bicycle that nobody uses 95% of the time.
  10. I have a car that nobody uses 95% of the time.
  11. I have a recreational vehicle that I only use a few days a year.
  12. I have a sailboat that I only use a few days a year.
  13. I have a pool that nobody uses 95% of the time.
  14. I have a backyard with a garden that I don’t use.
  15. I have a backyard with an area suitable for camping that I don’t use.
  16. I have a driveway that is empty when I’m at work.
  17. I have a bathroom that is not occupied most of the time.
  18. I have a garage with a lot of available storage space.
  19. I have a garage with a lot of unused power tools.
  20. I have a shed with a snow blower I only use for an hour when it snows.
  21. I have a shed with lawn mower I only use for an hour when the grass is tall.
  22. I have a shed with a power washer I only use a few times a year.
  23. I have a garage with a lot of sport equipment I only use a few times a year.
  24. I have a garage with a lot of camping equipment I only use a few times a year.
  25. I have a home gym that I only use a few times a week.
  26. I have a closet with a lot of clothes I don’t plan to wear soon.
  27. I have a shoe rack with a lot of shoes I don’t plan to wear soon.
  28. I have a pantry with a lot of herbs and spices I barely use.
  29. I have a fridge with a lot of food that will expire before I can use it.
  30. I have a freezer with a lot of available space.
  31. I have a washing machine and dryer that I only used once a week.
  32. I have a printer at home that I only use a few times a month.
  33. I have a 3D printer at home that I only use a few times a year.
  34. I have a router with unlimited data and more bandwidth than I need.
  35. I have a computer with a CPU that’s idle most of the time.
  36. I have a computer with a GPU that’s idle most of the time.
  37. I have a computer with a lot of unused storage space.
  38. I have a lot of dinnerware that I only use when receiving guests.
  39. I have a lot of foldable chairs that I only use when receiving guests.
  40. I have a book collection with a lot of books I’m not reading.
  41. I have a board game collection with a lot of board games I’m not playing.
  42. I have a video game collection with a lot of video games I’m not playing.
  43. I have a music collection with a lot of music I‘m not listening to.
  44. I have a movie collection with a lot of movies I’m not watching.
  45. I have a phone that I don’t use since I upgraded to the latest model.
  46. I have a phone with an unlimited data plan.
  47. I have extra cash on me that I don’t currently need.
  48. I have a first aid kit and medication on me (plaster, aspirin, ibuprofen, diphenhydramine, epinephrine autoinjector).
  49. I have a pen on me that I’m not using.
  50. I have a power bank on me with more power than I need.
  51. I have available space in my backpack.
  52. I have an umbrella at work and I’m staying inside.
  53. I have a ticket for an event I can’t attend.
  54. I prepared more food than I can eat.
  55. I walk my dog every day and could easily walk additional dogs.
  56. I love pets and could easily take care of more of them.
  57. I stay at home to take care of my kid and could take care of another kid.
  58. I have access to a lot of cheap electricity.
  59. I am at the airport leaving the UK and I have a bulky type G travel adapter I won’t need for the rest of my trip.
  60. I have a lot of extra cash in Euro from my trip to Europe that I don’t need.
  61. I have a professional camera and I’m walking in a touristic area.
  62. I have a domain name I don’t use.
  63. I have extra space and weight available in my checked baggage.
  64. I have a flight allowing two checked baggage and I only use one.
  65. I am allowed to cross the border with $10,000, but I only carry $1,000.
  66. I am allowed to cross the border with 5 bottles of wine but I only have 1.
  67. I am allowed to grow up to 4 cannabis plants at home but I only grow 1.
  68. I paid for a parking spot for 2 hours, but I only needed it for 30 minutes.
  69. I paid for a parking spot for 1 month, but I won’t use it next week.
  70. I own a lot of surfaces (house, yard, car, boat, trailer, website) on which advertisement could be printed.
  71. I have a good credit score but I don’t have a lot of reward credit cards.
  72. I want to shop at a membership-only warehouse club but I’m living alone and can’t easily buy in bulk.
  73. I want to import something from overseas but the shipping cost is prohibitive without buying in bulk.
  74. I have an expensive ergonomic mouse/keyboard/chair/desk that people might want to try in person before ordering online.
  75. I have extra software licenses that I don’t use.
  76. I have a movie/music service subscription that allows multiple simultaneous viewers/listeners.
  77. I have a shelf stable packaged snack in my bag that I won’t need today.
  78. I have jumper cables in my car.
  79. I have a spare vote for the next municipal/provincial/federal election.
  80. I have extra drugs from a recent prescription that I won’t use.
  81. I have an employee discount.
  82. I have a discount coupon that I won’t use before it expires.
  83. I have a “buy one, get one free” coupon for food but I can only eat one.
  84. I have a referral code that I don’t share.
  85. I have a monthly prepaid SIM card that I only used for 2 weeks as a tourist.
  86. I have a monthly transit pass that I only used for 2 weeks as a tourist.
  87. I have an annual museum pass that I only used for 2 weeks as a tourist.
  88. I have a gym/transit/museum pass that allows me to bring a guest for free.
  89. I have fiat money sitting on a cryptocurrency exchange.
  90. I have a costume that I only wore once.
  91. I have jewelry that I rarely wear.
  92. I have an expensive camera drone that I only use a few times a year.
  93. I have specialized canning equipment that I only use once a year.
  94. I have specialized beer making equipment that I only use a few times a year.
  95. I have some sourdough starter.
  96. I have toys my children no longer play with.
  97. I have clothes my children no longer wear.
  98. I have an office space with enough extra space for another person.
  99. I have compost that I made but have no use for.
  100. I have knowledge of traffic, accidents, police, speed cameras and pothole along my commute.
  101. I have knowledge of the length and speed of the queue I’m waiting in.
  102. I have knowledge of the current price of gas at my local gas station.
  103. I have knowledge of the quality, opening hours, price range, of the restaurant I’m eating at.
  104. I have knowledge of where public toilets are around town.
  105. I know a lot about plants and can identify a lot of them.
  106. I know a lot about insects and can identify a lot of them.
  107. I know a lot about fishes and can identify a lot of them.
  108. I know a lot about birds and can identify a lot of them.
  109. I can translate text between two languages.
  110. I can transcribe text from audio.
  111. I can transcribe text from an image.
  112. I can narrate text.
  113. I can proofread text.

For any such scenario, one might be tempted to turn it into a startup. For example, “I have a spare couch that nobody sleeps on” could become Couchsurfing.

Now imagine that each of the above scenarios gets turned into multiple startups (this is probably the case already). Just think about all the duplicated effort that each of these startups have to go through:

  • Find an idea.
  • Find a name.
  • Find a domain name.
  • Create social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, GitHub).
  • Register a company.
  • Design a logo and brand.
  • Pitch to VCs.
  • Choose a software stack (hosting, source control, database, server, client, mobile).
  • Hire programmers, designers, project managers, and a legal team.
  • Design the data models (user, rating, review, offer, transaction, message, preference).
  • Implement sign up and authentication.
  • Implement search and filtering.
  • Implement payment.
  • Implement localization.
  • Implement accessibility.
  • Implement the API and documentation.
  • Comply with regulations (Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, GDPR).
  • Find a hosting provider.
  • Release updates.
  • Send newsletters, publish articles, post on social networks.
  • Build a community and ecosystem (and solve the chicken and egg problem).
  • Build a mobile app (iOS, Android).
  • Scale performance.
  • Fix bugs and security issues.
  • Sunset.

Does it look like a scalable and sustainable model to you? What if I listed 1,000,000 examples? How many different accounts, profiles, apps, websites and services can a person comfortably manage?

So many apps…

Unless we give up on the sharing economy and decide to not maximize the use of the resources we have available to us, we’ll need to consider the 100 examples listed above (and 1,000,000 more), but we can’t continue building new companies and platforms for each of them.

In my next post, I’ll describe how I think we could solve this problem.