While 2014 was a huge growth year for individual sharing-economy companies, in 2015 the industry has seen the major growth as a whole. Collaboration is not only helping everyone to save and reuse underutilized assets, but it’s also involving the middle-high class.

2015: The Sharing Economy Is a New Norm

Because of this boom, the sharing economy is not yet fully defined. Its innovative and progressive character is still hurdles in a world sometimes conservative. The line between legality and illegality is still weak.

What's going on in the world?
What and where is the role of the sharing economy?

Lack of shared definition

There are four different terms being used to describe an emerging economic, technological and social phenomenon that includes well known Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit.. Each term has a different meaning and point out some features of the phenomenon generally address as “sharing economy”. Therefore, in our analysis we will use the term “sharing economy” as an “umbrella term” that include all the others definitions here explained.

Rachel Botsman, What’s mine is Yours: how collaborative consumption is changing the way we live, 2015

Sharing isn’t new, you’re probably already doing it!

If you you’ve ever borrowed a book from the library, washed your clothes at a laundromat, rented a movie from Redbox, hitched a ride or leased an apartment, you are already familiar with the benefits of shared resources. Even if sharing economy is considered as a revolution, activities such as collaboration, swapping, renting and lending aren’t new, but are old as the library. People have always cooperated to share resources, work and relationships. In recent years these kind of customs are becoming an economic model thanks to some elements that have driven the “sharing” from an unstructured and informal phenomenon to an organized one. Three market forces have contributed to the rise of “sharing economy”.

Jeremiah Owyang, The collaborative Economy, Altimeter Group (June 4, 2013)


Increasing population density

Drive for sustainability

Desire for community

Generational altruism


Monetize excess or idle inventory

Increase financial flexibility

Access over ownership

Influx of Venture Capital funding


Social networking

Mobile devices and platforms

Payment systems


In this section data visualizations are based on the the dataset released by Crowd Companies on 17/09/2015, that contains data of 284 “sharing economy” companies around the world, integrated with the data found on Crunchbase. Crowd Companies was found by Jeremiah Owyang and it is a council that gathers internal, corporate agents of change in a setting where they can further learn about and engage in the Collaborative Economy.

Croud Companies / Crounchbase

Growth of sharing economy companies around the world

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Trend of companies and sectors from 1995 to 2015

The streamgraph shows the evolution of the companies in twenty years, from 1995 when Craigslist was born until nowadays. The foundation of sharing economy companies had a boost after 2008.The second view of the visualization illustrates the trend for each industry of companies across the years.

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Top 5 sharing cities

It is clear from the map above that big cities and metropolis are more attractive for the foundation of new companies because of the economy and prosperity of the area. The hotsposts of San Francisco, London, Boston, Paris and Mountain View can be viewed in a radar chart that compares the number of companies for each industry.

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Alive, acquired or dead?

Some of the analyzed companies are not operating today or they have been acquired. For each industry we represent the amount of alive, acquired and dead companies. Even if the acquisition and death of the companies regards a small percentage, it is interesting to analyse the behaviour of the companies involved in this kind of phenomenon.

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Does the sharing economy acquire itself?

When a company is acquired from another company, two different trends regarding the buyer come up to our analysis: older “non sharing economy” companies that open up to this new model, or “sharing” companies that acquire others sharing “companies” in order to expand.

The outsiders outside the cluster

In the dataset there were four elements for each company to compare and analyze: total amount of funding, number of rounds, number of investors and the age. The comparison between the four mentioned elements was facilitated by the creation of indicators such as the average of rounds per year and the average of funding per investor. The cluster of the data through these indicators didn’t point out meaningful groups but underlined the presence of a common behaviour of most part of the companies, in opposition to a few outsiders with a very different behaviour.

That’s why a weight function was used to normalize the data in order to find similar patterns between the behaviours of the companies, but the outcome of the analysis is a group of homogeneous clusters with similar properties. The final and definitive approach that led us to our visualization was driven by a change of the point of view: the exceptions, such as Uber, Airbnb and Lyft, bring us to a more interesting analysis compared to a focus on the big homogeneous group of the remaining companies.

Outsiders' profiles

From the cluster analysis we can easily the see that there are a few companies out of the mass: their investments, longevity, numbers of investors and rounds are usually higher than the remaining companies. There are companies with a long life and a high number of investments, like Prosper. Homeaway, is the example of how a company can be long life lasting even without big investments, thanks to the collaborative behaviours of its users. Some, such as the new Uber and Lyft, are pretty young but they can attire a high number of investment.

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Even if Italy doesn’t have a big impact on the international scenario, the Italian market of sharing companies is pretty fresh and growing. In this section, data visualizations are based on the dataset provided by Marta Mainieri, founder of Collaboriamo, an Italian organization that provides consultancy for collaborative platforms. The dataset is composed only by Italian companies or international companies that operate in Italy. It has been taken in consideration only the peer-to-peer model (for example, companies such as Car2go or Enjoy have not been taken in consideration because their assets belong to the company). The dataset has been integrated with the Italian crowdfunding platforms annual report released by Daniela Castrataro and Ivana Pais from the Italian crowdfunding network.

Collaboriamo.org / Italian Crowdfunding

Italian overview

Trend of Italian companies and sectors from 1995 to 2015


...shows the distribution of the companies among the Italian regions or the distribution of the offices of the international companies that operate in Italy. Lombardia and Lazio, the regions with the two biggest Italian city – Milano and Rome, have the highest number of companies. The bar chart on the right illustrates the amount of companies for each industry: money, goods and services are the most relevant. On the left there is a comparison between the country of birth and where they operate. Most of the companies are Italian and operate in Italy.


2011 is the key-year for sharing economy in Italy: we go from 68 to 103 new companies in just one year, covering most of the industries. The boost starts slowing down in 2013, where we can see that companies in the financial area are the most prolific and interesting for this new economy.


In conclusion, we assist to a continuous expansion of this new economy, which began in the US and was gradually adopted by the other countries of the world. Due to this new and evolving trend, games are still on and the current state and possible future of cooperation is still not that clear. It would be interesting to compare companies not only by founding but also by the sales, to check if the sharing economy is that effective and successful. The question is:

Is it only the network that gives value to people or these giants companies are successful just because there is a vertical organized structure in addition to the network of people?