Last week was a thrilling and decisive one for Onfido, as we hosted Breakers to Makers, our inaugural conference for the Sharing & On Demand Economy (SODE).
We invited founders and leaders from the world’s leading SODE businesses, as well as policy-makers and pioneering global brands, to join us in discussing the challenges and opportunities faced by the SODE sector at this critical inflection point whereby it is moving from the niche to the mainstream.
And it is no coincidence that the event was held in London. More than any other nation, the UK is at the forefront of the tech revolution - continually pushing to ask the difficult questions and bring down the barriers which will benefit businesses in our country and beyond.
From the packed house to the calibre of conversation, it was both inspiring and humbling to host. Our guest line up included Matthew Hancock MP, current Minister for the Cabinet Office; Debbie Wosskow, chair of the Sharing Economy UK trade body and founder of LoveHomeSwap; Eileen Burbidge, Chair of Tech City UK and Sofia Gkiousou, Public Policy Manager at Airbnb.
In this article we outline the biggest talking points from the day’s discussions.
Responsibility and trust still paramount
Our opening panel, hosted by Caroline Hyde of Bloomberg TV, dove into the familiar topic of responsibility and regulation in the sharing economy. Debbie Wosskow opened the conversation speaking of responsibility, not as a choice, but rather as the key to sustainable business success. “If you aren’t seen as responsible,” Wosskow said, “then you don’t have a business.” The panel discussed how best responsibility could be encouraged and an industry-wide trustmark was agreed to be an effective way to recognise best practice, if treated with caution.
Dan Warne, MD of UK & Ireland at Deliveroo, echoed that thought. By going above and beyond the standards stipulated by regulation, businesses can win the favour of their customers and "put [themselves] ahead of the curve".
During the Q&A session, the conversation turned to the mechanisms for trust and the potential pitfalls of the peer-to-peer review system which has recently made the headlines with the story of fake reviews on Amazon and eBay. Wosskow stated that the integrity of these systems must imperatively be maintained, particularly when the business' model relies upon it as is the case with these two internet giants.
Partnerships between equals
Our second panel looked at the positive and negative aspects of partnering with established corporations, and the effect it can have on sharing economy start-ups.
Partnerships exist in many forms. Some companies form strategic partnerships with corporate investors as is the case with BMW and JustPark or Stripe and Visa. James Allgrove, Head of Stripe UK, spoke of the benefits that come from accessing a new partner’s market, and the collective knowledge and networks that can stem from such relationships.
Another form of partnership is that between client and service provider. BlaBlaCar's recent deal with AXA is one example of a mutually beneficial cross-sector partnership which enables both parties to open up their services to new audiences.
Yet there was also caution in the discussion; Alex Stephany, CEO of JustPark, spoke of the need to avoid getting dazzled by attention from Fortune 500 firms and ending up focusing on short-term gains over long-term ones. James Allgrove and Martin Mignot, Principal at Index Ventures, advised companies to ensure that their values are aligned with those of their potential partners as a first priority.