The sharing economy, which relies on technology to connect regular-Joe consumers to regular-Joe suppliers, has matured enough that a next generation of startups has begun to piggyback on its success.
Much like the automobile industry gave rise to an ecosystem of suppliers and service providers — although on a far smaller scale — consider the business consequences of, say, Airbnb. Since the online platform was founded in 2008, helping people rent out rooms or homes to strangers, its success has spawned a cottage industry of tech-savvy property-management companies — Pillow, Guesthop, Evolve, and the like. They work for prospective hosts for Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to spruce up their properties and oversee the booking and rental process. This can involve services ranging from prettifying the house to screening potential renters, dropping off the key, and cleaning up afterward.
Derivative businesses, The Wall Street Journal calls them. Harvard Business Review regards the purveyors of such services as high-tech middlemen between would-be suppliers and sharing-economy goliaths such as Airbnb.
These middlemen will work for a regular Joe — if Joe has the dough. That is the business premise behind Hello Alfred, a New York-based startup company that runs a sort of super-concierge service for busy professionals, arranging for their household tasks and errands to get done. Two Harvard Business School students had the idea after marveling at the convenience of hiring someone to buy their groceries and pick up their dry cleaning once a week — to "manage your reoccurring services," says Marcela Sapone, one of the founders. Their market research, in the form of fliers distributed in apartment houses around Boston, persuaded them there was money to be made.