The Sharing Economy Boom in London

By: Chantelle Symester

April 25, 2014

The sharing economy in London isn’t just a trendy flash in the pan. Yes it’s had its fair share of sceptics and naysayers who question its longevity, not to mention regulators and governments that have argued about its future. But one thing is for sure: the sharing economy is growing. Fast.

The idea of collaborative consumption where assets and services are maximised by sharing is by no means a new thing. The likes of eBay and Craigslist were around long before “˜shared economy’ became a buzzword among economists and financial journalists. However, this notion is currently transforming aspects of our daily lives like never before, and makes both practical and financial sense to a lot of people.

London, being a monolithic hub of action, is championing the trend wholeheartedly, with some of the biggest impacts of the movement emerging within the travel arena. The success of businesses like Airbnb and Zipcar UK, pioneers of the sharing economy concept, prove that maximising our collective usage with minimum effort and maximum convenience is undeniably beneficial and increasingly necessary. Whether it’s transforming your daily commute or that long-awaited summer holiday abroad, the sharing economy is also changing our perspectives and options.

The Sharing Economy | Airbnb members & guest

Airbnb member and her guest © Airbnb

If ever there were a poster child for the ideals of the concept, Airbnb would certainly be it. Founded in 2008 in San Francisco, the business is now a global success (cropping up in 192 countries) with over 11 million global guests. The simple premise of offering a community driven marketplace, matching users who need affordable accommodation with those offering up their extra space, packaged with seamless efficiency, is simple enough. But the big draw is the win-win notion that users feel like they’re getting a unique experience at a steal and vendors are utilising and monetising free space that would otherwise go to waste.

The Sharing Economy | London barge listed on Airbnb

Airbnb listing © Airbnb

Just recently, Airbnb announced that over 1 million total guests from the UK have now used the service, with much of the growth driven by new users. Last year alone, over 330,000 UK guests tried Airbnb for the first time. The importance of finding a service rooted in sustainability is both a logical and attractive one. And it’s a model that’s spawned numerous other start-ups, from Berlin’s 9Flats, founded by Stephan Uhrenbacher (the brains behind internet marvels like and listings site Qype), to Travelmob who specialise in Asian Pacific locations, and One Fine Stay offering a friend abroad concept.

The Sharing Economy | Boris bikes docking station

Boris Bikes at docking station © zefart/istock/thinkstock

Another area that has greatly benefited from the sharing movement is our city commute. From handy Boris Bikes to convenient carpooling services, more and more people have decided to abandon public transport on their daily commute. Carpooling is a popular US export that’s slowly and steadily transforming London, and rapidly spreading throughout the UK. Leading service provider Zipcar UK has been at the forefront of providing its users a simple and inexpensive way to get around. Users simply join, reserve, unlock and they’re away. Put plainly, you can gauge its appeal by asking yourself to imagine never having to think about necessities such as petrol or congestion charges? A charming thought. Advocating the “˜pay as you live’ lifestyle is a central part of Zipcar’s ethos – ultimately users can enjoy the service guilt free in the knowledge that they are both saving their pockets and, in some small way, the planet.

The Sharing Economy | Zipcar UK

Zipcar UK leading the carpooling revolution © Zipcar UK

Carpooling UK (part of the bigger European family) is another equally successful community driven transport company that has become one of the leading services of its kind in the UK. With over a million users each month, it’s a cheap, easy and safe way to get around. Undoubtedly, carpooling is an ideal city solution, shared car ownership is equally as practical for those who only need a vehicle on specific occasions or those who can’t afford to run a car of their own full time. Particularly when flexibility, value for money and time are at a premium.

The Sharing Economy | Carpooling

Carpooling is both a sustainable and eco-friendly option © CarpoolingUK

But it’s not just longer trips and planned journeys that are feeling the ripple effect of the sharing economy. The newest development is the arrival of Uber, a taxi service with a difference. The American model has winged its way across the Atlantic and has, quite literally, taken off. No doubt the influx of Facebook notifications from friends who have signed up to the service or the emails from eager friends recommending the service have been a clear indication that there most certainly is a demand for more companies like Uber. The service connects independent drivers with spare time between jobs that want to earn some extra cash and a vast number of people who can’t often afford to fork out extortionate fares in a traditional London cab. Uber offers a mutually beneficial marketplace to effectively and safely connect drivers and passengers, whilst keeping fares affordable.

It’s clear the sharing economy is a phenomenon that isn’t just going to disappear, and although the road ahead won’t be plain sailing for many businesses navigating the legal and commercial challenges, it’s a concept from which we can all benefit. The steady demand is proof that the sharing economy is revolutionising the way we think and behave, and the impact we are all having on our communities.


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Written by Chantelle Symester


Chantelle Symester

Chantelle Symester is a writer and editor based in London. When she’s not chained to her laptop working she can be found hopping on a plane to far flung places across the globe. Trips so far include adventures to Mexico, South America and North Africa and she now has her heart set on discovering the East. You can find her @csymester

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