The sharing economy is open for business. Will it be Uber disruptive in B2B?

sharing-economy-openThe peer-to-peer revolution was not only televised, but live-streamed. And now that revolution is heading for the workplace.


The success stories of P2P companies, such as Uber and AirBnB are well-known by now; and if you haven’t already tried these slick peer-to-peer services, you definitely should. By using a web-based interface to connect people offering a service to people requesting that same service, these sites (mostly) cut out the middleman, streamline search, communications and transactions, and enable a free flow of commerce between peers.


Now some forward thinking companies are bringing the highly efficient Uber model to the work site, the conference room, and the laboratory, just for starters. They’re turning P2P into B2B, and the opportunities for businesses to solve problems, and to profit, are multiplying fast.


One such company, KWIPPED, enables equipment rentals between businesses across 22 distinct industries. From more traditional rental categories, like party supplies, construction equipment, and audio-visual technology, to more specialized rentals, such as medical and laboratory devices and surveying equipment, KWIPPED already offers 3000+ pieces of rental inventory and nearly $30 million in rentable assets.


The result for participating businesses is increased efficiency and greater opportunity for profit. A business that owns an expensive piece of equipment that is only used occasionally can rent out that equipment during downtime and defray its costs. On the flip-side, a business that needs to use an expensive piece of equipment on occasion can rent it rather than buying it, saving a great deal on initial cost, as well as maintenance and repair.


However, limited capital budgets are not necessarily the driving force behind B2B sharing. Most transactions on KWIPPED are driven by a company’s ability to transfer the cost of renting to their customer and in many cases, turn the rental into additional profit.  The transferring of cost and “marking-up” for profit of rentals in the B2B world is not the exception, but rather the norm.  It is this common practice that platforms like KWIPPED are harnessing to create momentum and achieve success.


KWIPPED’s open marketplace platform is a disruptive technology, to be sure. Just as Uber and Lyft disrupted the taxi cab industry, and Airbnb disrupted the hotel industry, companies like KWIPPED have the potential to disrupt a whole host of equipment sellers and brick-and-mortar rental agencies. But a word of caution to those who think disruption in the B2B world will echo P2P; don’t hold your breath! The stakes involved for equipment failure in a commercial application are far greater than your Uber driver not showing up.  Premiums are paid for confidence that “sharing” partners will be knowledgeable, reliable and capable of servicing equipment. It is for this reason that KWIPPED carefully screens potential suppliers and has focused on building a supplier network of organizations that specialize in certain equipment.


The disruptive nature of KWIPPED has to do with the types of non-traditional organizations that become willing to rent equipment. Companies that sell or service equipment, typically don’t keep rental inventory pools.  However, demand is so high for certain types of rentals among businesses that providing new sources of supply are certain to result in a profit.


Other potentially disruptive aspects of KWIPPED include:


  • The creation of new lines of business due to affordable access to specialized equipment
  • Introducing more and new types of equipment inventory into the rental market
  • Providing renters with efficient access to more equipment options


And while disruption can result in pain for the old guard, in the business world, it can easily be transformed into opportunity. Just ask airlines and hotel chains if they regret being part of Expedia.

Rory Laverty is a journalist and English Professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.  In addition to being an accomplished business writer and author, Rory’s interest in entrepreneurial start-ups has fueled an active blogging  and freelance writing career.