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How Airbnb and Uber Are (Still) Shaping the Sharing Economy

2013 marked the rise of the sharing economy and, as with any new market, questions on how to regulate it have also arisen. The two most prominent examples of this type of company are Uber and Airbnb, both of which have seen their fair share of regulatory challenges thus far.

Unfortunately for startups, the trend is likely to continue. While some young companies might be able to slip under the regulatory radar, state and federal bodies are guaranteed to feel threatened by major disruptors to the market.

It seems that the first step regulators have taken toward these companies has been aggressive: They’ve attempted to shut down the companies altogether. Fast Company Labs recently noted that “Uber has tangled more or less continuously with existing transportation businesses and regulators who’ve sought to shut the service down. In response, Uber’s waged an aggressive public relations campaign to defend its business and pricing models.”

Regulators do have a point.  At worst, companies like these are pricing regular citizens out of certain markets. GigaOm recently noted that, in Berlin, peer-to-peer apartment platforms are partially to blame for rising rents, “as housing advocates across the world argue that they take housing supply out of the population, even if they promote tourism.”

Airbnb has recently started to change its philosophy. Where once they were arguing that “your laws are outdated and don’t apply to innovative businesses like ours,” Time notes that the company has now started to consider collecting room rental taxes and working with city officials to draft new legislation.

There is a common adage that the most effective way to change the system is from within it. This statement might hold water for companies like Airbnb and Uber, except that for them, they’re doing things backwards—changing first, then working to integrate within existing systems. By doing so, these companies can still shape the market, without having to deal with constant pushback.

Liz Elfman

Liz Elfman is a writer, editor, and content strategist.