4 Ideas for the Sharing Economy

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wired magazine has a cover story this month on the rise of the Sharing Economy, where companies like AirBnB, Uber, and Lyft are getting Americans to trust one another by sharing car rides, spare rooms or apartments, etc.    The idea is that in this tough labor market, where wages are depressed, one can try to supplement one's income through market inefficiencies.  With that in mind, here are four ideas I'm ready to pitch to Mark Cuban in the Shark Tank:

  • "Gyym" - Have a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine currently serving as a hanger for clothes?  My app will connect you to unused workout machines in the area for a small fee.   Why spend significant dollars at a high-priced gym only to encounter some juiced-up monster glaring at you.  Workout in peace without the pressure.
  • "Musyc" - Have a piano gathering dust, or a guitar gathering dust in its case.  My app will connect you to unused musical instruments in the area for a small fee.  Why spend big money for an instrument for your child that will only go silent after only a few months?
  • "SylverWare" - Bought a huge amount of plastic ware, cups, and plates for a birthday party, dinner, or other event, only to have inventory left over?  With our app, we can match your unused good to those throwing a party in the future.
  • "Bulbz" - Heading off on vacation for two weeks, and shutting off all your lamps?  Shed some light on other people's darkness, by loaning out your light bulbs while they lay dormant.

One of these ideas has to be a winner!  "Share" your own idea in the comments below.

On 50% Off Candy and the Long-Term Unemployed

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, April 24, 2014

Monday was one of my favorite days of the year.  

Along with the day after Halloween and the day after Valentine's Day, the day after Easter is truly worthy of celebration....

...with 50% off candy at Walgreens (Target is usually only 30% off).

Is there anything particularly wrong with the candy? Is the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup 50% less delicious than it was the day before?  Are the jelly beans 50% less chewy?  Are the Marshmallow Peeps 50% less gross?

The only thing that caused the price slash is the packaging.  The candy is just as good as it was on Easter Sunday, but Walgreens, CVS, Target, etc. have to clear the shelves to get ready for the newest products, Mother's Day, or, perhaps, Christmas (only 244 shopping days left).

Which brings to mind a recent FiveThirtyEight.com study on long-term unemployment.  According to Ben Casselman,  

One characteristic distinguishes the long-term unemployed from the rest of America’s jobless. It isn’t how many hours they worked at their old job, or what industry they came from, or even their level of education.
It’s bad timing.
A FiveThirtyEight analysis shows that by far the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be out of work for a year or more is the state of the economy when he or she loses his or her job.1 Over the past 15 years, a period spanning two recessions, a one-point increase in the unemployment rate increased an individual’s odds of remaining unemployed for at least a year by about 35 percent. No other characteristic — age, sex, race, marital status, education or occupation, among others — had even close to that big an effect.
Americans who had the misfortune of losing their jobs during the height of the most recent recession in 2009 were more than four times as likely to end up out of work for a year or longer than those who lost their jobs during the comparatively good economy of 2007. Extended unemployment benefits, which are often cited as a driver of the persistently high levels of long-term joblessness, don’t appear to be a major cause of the pattern.
The long-term unemployed are just as capable after being unemployed as they were prior to being unemployed, but just like the pastel colors on the M&M's wrapper, they are often judged on the label, rather than what's inside.

In our "Moneyball" and "Big Data" obsession of late, one would think there are market inefficiencies to exploit here. While others are consciously shunning the long-term unemployed for being out of work for so long, shouldn't there be a firm out there able to capitalize on the rich talent available, much like I pounce on the discount candy the day after a holiday?