Re: Is Ownership Just a Hack?

by Yishai Knobel,

Our mission at HelpAround is to make everyday sharing of resources a reality. This is why we took Paul’s challenge on Twitter very personally:

Will ownership turn out to be largely a hack people resorted to before they had the infrastructure to manage sharing properly?

So to be clear, we don’t think that ownership in itself is a hack (or else, who would we borrow from?). Rather, mass ownership of everyday resources could turn out to be a hack.

In a world where mass ownership is not needed, resource sharing happens everyday. Such world would look something like this:

Owners & Consumers

No matter what, it would always include the following two players:
Owners, who are looking to extract more value out of their underutilized resources:

  1. Monetary value
  2. Social Capital

(see more about these incentives in a previous post: What Airbnb can learn from the Kibbutz and from the Shtetl on Yishai @ HelpAround)

Consumers, who are looking for access to resources, providing them with:

  1. Cost savings
  2. Convenience
  3. Value in periodically changing inventory (e.g. TurningArt)

Now that we agree on these two, let’s examine three possible models for everyday sharing of resources:

3 Models for Everyday Sharing of Resources

1. Centralized Resource Sharing (Zipcar, Hotels, TurningArt)

Here, our world will have an infrastructure of centralized resources that can be shared among consumers.
In such a world, most resources would be owned and rented out by central entities. And since state ownership hasn’t worked particularly well for the world, then we’re left with corporate ownership and the good-old rental model.


Hotels and car rental agencies are easy examples: they centrally own bedrooms and cars respectively, and consumers buy access to the resource when they need it.

2. Decentralized Resource Sharing (AirBnB, Lyft):

In such world, mass ownership co-exists with everyday resource sharing. Owners would have the proper infrastructure to manage their individually-owned resources. These in turn, can be shared among other individuals. English to Zulu dictionary . Mass resource ownership would probably decrease in such world, but to what extent?


This is where startups like AirBnB thrive: owners extract more value out of their underutilized property, and consumers get the cost-saving, convenience, and potentially the value in periodically changing inventory (rememeber that AirBnB rental in Paris? sigh…).

3. Hybrid Resource Ownership & Sharing

This is probably the direction in which our world is heading. We can organize resources in such world into 3 groups:

  1. Resources for which central ownership maximize the combined owner-consumer value
  2. Resources for which distributed ownership maximizes the combined owner-consumer value
  3. Resources which will always be individually owned, period (this category probably deserves an individually-owned blog post of itself)


So the Answer is: Yes, and…

We are fortunate to be part of a the creation of this new world, where mass ownership is challenged by everyday resource sharing, and we can see how by utilizing these models, everyday sharing of resources can become a reality.

And to create this new world, we need to answer :

  1. For which types or everyday resources does a sharing model generate more owner-consumer value than mass ownership does?
  2. Which resources should be shared using central ownership, distributed ownership, and which will always stay individually owned?

So resource ownership is here to stay, but sharing is becoming smarter and more sophisticated everyday. Over time, more and more efficient models for everyday resource sharing will emerge. And humanity will be the winner!