Airbnb is without doubt the poster child of the sharing economy. The site has expanded rapidly to have over 300,000 listings, with around 200,000 of those being occupied at any one time. With listings in over 35,000 cities and nearly 200 countries around the world, it is a remarkable success story.
The success of the site has spawned imitators, hoping to carve out their own niche in the peer to peer holiday business. One Fine Stay for instance have gone after the luxury end of the market, or at least the wannabee luxury end of the market. Their site allows people to rent out their luxury home for people who want a taste of the high life for a spell.
An interesting new take on this field comes in the form of the UK based site FlatClub. FlatClub operate based upon university alumni networks in the hope that doing so will overcome many of the trust issues that worry users of the P2P sites.
In many other ways, the site is very similar to Airbnb, with users able to upload photos and details about their space for others to browse. They can set the rental price and the dates it is available on. So far so standard. Where it differs however is that users can then determine who they want to stay there. So for instance, users can specify only alumni from a particular university, or maybe even by specific groups of users that are perhaps identified by school or company email addresses.
The aim is that this sense of kinship will increase trust levels between users, and thus make the whole experience better. The site has backing from the likes of University College London, and their own research supports this kind of model. They believe that increasing trust levels by tapping into a users existing networks will double the number of people willing to rent out their homes via the web.
The site is currently operating in the UK and US, and covers around 30 institutions and 50,000 verified members. It’s without doubt a niche site that appears unlikely to trouble Airbnb on scale, but it might prove the old adage that quality matters more than quantity.