Sharing or renting your house when you are not using it, or your car when you have a seat to spare is a very old idea. Home swaps started in the 1950s when, as part of a project to improve cultural exchange, the Swiss and Dutch Teachers’ Unions started the home-exchange revolution. In a similar way hitching a ride was an informal precursor to modern car sharing services.
Home exchange services such as Intervac, and Homelink, both founded in 1953, were joined by businesses such as Ownersdirect.co.uk, Homelidays.com, HomeAway.com, VRBO and a long list of others throughout the late 90s and 2000’s. Late comers such as Airbnb, which launched in 2008, then grabbed the limelight with their deep pockets and blazing publicity. Today there are hundreds of home sharing services to choose from.
Formal car sharing, which is more dependent on smartphones, really only took off more recently. Zimride.com, launched in 2007, was the first significant attempt to capture this market. Since then many companies such as Haxi, Lyft, Uber and Sidecar have been launched.
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After the last decade’s rapid growth, the “sharing economy” is now part of everyday life.
Switzerland, arguably a late starter, appears to have now jumped ahead of the United States in adopting the “sharing economy”. A recent survey by Deloitte shows that 55% of Swiss consumers intend to rent property or goods and services via a sharing platform in the next 12 months. This is ten percent above the United States, home to many high profile sharing economy brands. In addition, Swiss are less concerned about regulating sharing services with only 21% in favour compared to 25% in the United States.
Interestingly, there is a big difference between those east and west of the Röstigraben, the theoretical line dividing Swiss French and German speakers. In the French-speaking part of Switzerland 65% of survey participants favour the sharing economy compared to only 32% in the German-speaking region.
11% of French-speakers have used and are in favour of the sharing economy compared to only 6% from the Swiss-german speaking region, and while 1% of French-speakers have tried and decided against the sharing economy, 5% in the Swiss-german speaking region feel this way.
Those who have never taken part and do not favour the sharing economy make up 45% of those surveyed in German-speaking Switzerland but only 8% in the French-speaking region.
For those entrepreneurs wanting to start a sharing business Suisse Romande appears to have an edge over Deutschschweiz as a consumer testing ground.
The Deloitte report also mentions a significant challenge for Swiss entrepreneurs on both sides of the Röstigraben: a shortage of funding.
Quora thread comparing Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO