Exploring Hong Kong’s Emerging Sharing Economy

Around the world, the sharing economy is booming. From home-sharing giant Airbnb and peer-to-peer taxi alternative Uber, to platforms that allow you to share meals, tools, toys, clothing and more with your neighbors, sharing is big business. As an industry, the sharing economy is projected to top $335 billion worldwide by 2025.

The idea driving the sharing economy is that having access to things is better than owning them. Sharing platforms connect people who have idle resources with those who can use them.

In Hong Kong, a growing number of companies are joining this movement. Vaughn Hew, founder of goods-sharing platform WhoGotStuff, explains that in building the sharing movement in Hong Kong, education is an important part.

“The first reaction many people have to Airbnb is, ‘There’s no way I’ll let strangers stay; they might steal and break stuff,’” he says. “So they talk about the concept with friends. Positive or negative, that’s the start of change.”

Terence Yuen, founder of the Hong Kong Institute of Social Impact Analysts, and organizer with Sharing Hong Kong, explains that Hong Kong is “in the process of developing a common identity” around the sharing economy.

Among the challenges sharing entrepreneurs face are legal restrictions and what Yuen describes as “the strong old economic structure that leaves little space for the new sharing economy startups.” As the sharing economy grows and evolves, however, there is an exciting opportunity for sharing pioneers in Hong Kong to help grow the global sharing economy and join the following leaders of the local sharing economy.

CarShare.hk
Hong Kong’s first peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, CarShareHK enables car owners to rent their vehicles to people who need short term car rentals. The two parties meet to exchange keys and agree on the conditions, then meet again at the end of the rental period. CarShareHK’s insurance covers the transaction. carshare.hk

Sharing Hong Kong
A non-governmental organization (NGO), Sharing Hong Kong works to bring awareness to the sharing economy, connect local sharing enthusiasts, and share information about the global sharing movement through talks, events and gatherings. Earlier this year, the organization hosted a ShareFest, the first sharing economy event to be held in Hong Kong.

Coworking

Coworking is a vital aspect of the sharing movement, enabling entrepreneurs, freelancers, and independent professionals to work in a community environment. Countless sharing economy enterprises have emerged out of connections made in coworking spaces. As Tony Yet, community curator for coworking space Good Lab explains, “Coworking makes it possible for serendipity to happen on a daily basis. It is this kind of unplanned interaction that could spark further dialogue and collaborations that could only be found in a coworking space with people from vastly different backgrounds.”

In Hong Kong, there are dozens of coworking spaces, each one with different offerings and styles. Three examples from Hong Kong’s rich coworking scene are: Good Lab, a coworking space for people and organizations working for social change, which also hosts a series of sharing economy talks; CoCoon, an entrepreneur-focused coworking space that connects innovators, designers, engineers, leaders, entrepreneurs and investors for mutual support and collaboration; and PaperclipHK, a startup campus for entrepreneurs to collaborate, connect with mentors and investors, learn the latest businesses practices, and tap into the global startup ecosystem. (see all cowork spaces)

Bike Sharing
Not generally regarded as a bicycle-friendly city, Hong Kong has a committed base of people working to create safer cycling conditions, better bike infrastructure, and a strong cycling community. One way to increase cycling visibility and get more people on bikes through bike-sharing. The West Kowloon Cultural District has a pilot bike-sharing program called BikeShare, and there is a pilot bike-share planned for Sha Tin with a proposed 140 bicycles.

Airbnb 
In just seven years, home sharing giant Airbnb has grown from an air mattress on the floor of a San Francisco apartment to a worldwide, peer-to-peer platform for sharing rooms, homes, flats, treehouses, cabins and more. In Hong Kong, there are thousands of Airbnb listings with enough diversity to suit any traveling style. Looking for alternatives to Airbnb? Check out Wimdu.com and Tripping.com.

Myflat
Described as a neighbourhood social network, Myflat connects neighbors to build networks of mutual support. By requiring users to register with their residential address, Myflat is able to connect those who live in close proximity to exchange information, resources, support, reviews of local merchants and ideas. Myflat.hk

WhoGotStuff
WhoGotStuff is a mobile app and goods sharing marketplace. Targeting only your Facebook friends and Facebook groups, the platform is a convenient alternative to buying new things. In addition to connecting people to share goods, WhoGotStuff focuses on growing relationships. “What this means,” says Hew, “is that you will be motivated enough to get rid of the many things gathering dust at home.” Whogotstuff.com

Oh Yes! It’s Free!
An online market, Oh Yes! It’s Free! is a freecycling platform for people to share, exchange, and find goods without exchanging money. Doing so decreases waste, encourages community connections, and gives new life to unused or underutilized items.  Facebook Page

Hong Kong Book Xchange
The Hong Kong Book Xchange is an NGO that facilitates the sharing and swapping of books. The organization’s core values include proactively sharing, respecting diversity, thinking critically, valuing free will, and working for positive change.

Open Culture
Hong Kong has a growing movement of open culture enthusiasts. Among the organizations at the core of the movement are Creative Commons Hong Kong; OpenSourceHK; the maker movement which is driven by makerspace DimSumLabs and the Hong Kong Mini Maker Faire; and the Internet Society of Hong Kong.

Uber
A peer-to-peer transportation platform, Uber has been criticized for its questionable business practices, but the company’s move into the sharing economy is undeniable. In Hong Kong, Uber has also enlisted taxis into its fleet of drivers and recently experimented with a food delivery service. Uber.com

GoGoVan
With ambitions to be the Uber of Deliveries in Asia, GoGoVan is an app that connects van drivers with those who need help with deliveries, transporting goods or moving. With more than 10,000 registered drivers, GoGoVan is the largest logistic fleet in Hong Kong. Gogovan.com


Cat Johnson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Shareable, Yes! Magazine, Lifehacker, Utne Reader, Society 3.0 and more. She lives in Santa Cruz, California. Interests include the new economy, collaboration, community, the commons and music. Follow her on Twitter: @CatJohnson

 

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