It's time to draw a line in the (shared) sand. Technocrats can have "disrupt" and "pivot." Bury those words in a PowerPoint pitch deck; they are lost to us now. But startups must not be allowed to co-opt "share." Just look at the twisted things they want to do with it.
Next week Peers, the lobbying group cofounded by Airbnb's head of community, is co-hosting a "two-day cross sector" in San Francisco called Share, where full-price tickets will set you back $804.95. Sponsors for this conference about sharing include Airbnb (a $10 billion company that has raised $766 million) and Lyft (backed by $332 million in venture capital).
There's a reduced price option: $404.95 for "Startups, Makers, & Non-Profits," accessible to "freelancers and startups" with less than $1 million in revenue.
Peers had the PR agency Derris & Company contact Valleywag in response to questions. The PR firm said that conference is being partly funded by the sponsors and that: "Any money from ticket sales will be invested in the conference and for Peers' extensive scholarship program."
Fast Company has previously reported on what lurks beneath Peers faux-grassroots agenda. "Sharing means caring—but for whom?" the magazine asked in December:
But, so far, Peers members are volunteering much of their time fighting local legal battles that benefit the organization's corporate partners: lobbying state lawmakers in New York City to change the hotel laws for Airbnb, gathering petition signatures to get the Seattle city council to permit Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber to operate, turning people out to council meetings in Los Angeles to protect Airbnb's operations there.
The article noted that Peers was backed by the Omidyar Network, which has been "criticized for co-opting and commercializing sharing innovations," such as relaunching CouchSurfing as a for-profit enterprise.
Speakers at Share include Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, Airbnb investor Ron Conway, Pearl Chan from the Omidyar Network, Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures, and Uber investor Shervin Pishevar.
Look, it's great that Airbnb's $10 billion valuation has prompted the company to address uncollected taxes and illegal operations. With Uber now embedded in Google Maps, Lyft certainly needs all the help it can get.
But calling this "sharing" is like calling the methodical destruction of the planet climate change. The climate is not changing, we are changing it. These homes and cars aren't being shared, we're paying for it. The sooner everyone admits that, the less they'll feel shafted when Airbnb and Uber go public on the back of all that feel-good sharing.
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[Images via Share]