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* Book: The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing. By Lisa Gansky. Portfolio / Penguin Group, FALL 2010



From the publisher:

" Traditional businesses follow a simple formula: create a product or service, sell it, collect money. But in the last few years a fundamentally different model has taken root - one in which consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more peer-to-peer power. Pioneering entrepreneur Lisa Gansky calls it the Mesh and reveals why it will soon dominate the future of business.

Mesh companies create, share and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright. Gansky reveals how there is real money to be made and trusted brands and strong communities to be built in helping your customers buy less but use more.

Consider the explosive growth of Zipcar. By exploiting the latest technology and making it easy and affordable to have a car whenever you need one, this young company is helping to redefine personal transportation. And deeply worrying established competitors. Gansky shows how the same pattern is playing out with less famous Mesh companies that are reinventing an enormous range of industries." (

Summary Review

"The "Mesh" describes businesses and organizations that share stuff, fueled in part by the mobile web & social networks. Mesh lifestyles and businesses embrace a world in which access to things trumps owning them. In my book, The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing, I talk about dozens of these new outfits, and why they are growing at such a prodigious rate. There are a couple of thousand more at

Well-known examples include car & bike sharing, (Zipcar , B Cycle & GetAround) and vacation home-sharing services. (AirBnB & VRBO). But there are lots of more surprising ideas brought to market -- fashion & craft exchanges, tools libraries, p2p energy, co-working, rooftop farming, p2p money lending, technology driven by sharing, and support for the arts. Mesh companies leverage billions of dollars of investment in tech and physical infrastructure, and are relatively inexpensive to start and run.

For many people, the Mesh will provide opportunities to generate extra income (through "meshing" your possessions on sites that help with all the details), and to save money by only accessing goods and services only when you need them, rather than aspiring to own one of everything. In the next decade, I predict, this model will conspicuously shape how we think about our lives and work and will shake-up the buy-and-throw-away economy. (hint: it already has) By re-using, repairing, and recycling goods, the Mesh also makes sense as the global population zooms toward 9 billion persons." (

Other Reviews

Kevin Kelly:

"Lisa Gansky has a great start envisioning what meshiness means to businesses in her new book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing.

Sharing is the new vital verb in society. Not that sharing itself is new, but that the ways, dimensions, amplitude, volume, geography, frequency, span, diversity, and colors of sharing have expanded greatly.

Gansky's framing helped me unify many of the current fashionable strands of change at work in consumerism: social media, the shift away from ownership, the attraction of open-source, viral marketing, and others. I found it helpful. She also supplies a super-duper annotated reference and source list that is itself a book, and worth your while." (


Chosen by Kevin Kelly from Lisa Gansky's annotations:

We can increasingly gain convenient access to those goods, greatly reducing the need to own them. Why buy, maintain, and store a table saw or a lawn mower or a car when they are easily and less expensively available to use when we want them?

Mesh businesses share four characteristics: sharing, advanced use of Web and mobile information networks, a focus on physical goods and materials, and engagement with customers through social networks.

One trend is “tryvertising,” where, instead of advertising, companies place products in people’s daily lives. In some cases, people pay a small fee to get samples of new products, and then give feedback to the manufacturer. For only five euros, a Barcelona-based outfit, esloúltimo, allows customers to try out five products for two weeks, including a variety of food, household, and tech products. Tryvertising might be used to listen to a potential market and hone the offer, or simply to determine the market’s preference for owning, as opposed to just using, new tools and services.

All the Mesh businesses rely on a basic premise: when information about goods is shared, the value of those goods increases, for the business, for individuals, and for the community.

Zipcar is a near perfect example of a successful Mesh business. It doesn’t make, sell, or repair cars. It shares them. Zipcar is primarily an information business that happens to share cars.

A recent study by McKinsey concluded that a recommendation from a “trusted source” like a friend or family member was fifty times more likely to persuade someone to buy a product or try a new brand.

The writer Po Bronson notes that a “crisis can actually take people from thinking about what’s next to thinking about what is first.”

Cisco estimates traffic over the Internet will exceed 667 exabytes by 2013. That’s roughly 667 billion gigabytes and equates to a quintupling of traffic from 2009 to 2013. Cisco predicts that one trillion devices will be connected to the Internet by that time.

In a matter of months, Curtis Kimball’s popular Crème Brûlée Cart in San Francisco attracted more than 11,000 followers on Twitter.

There are seven keys to building trust in the Mesh: 1. Say what you do—manage expectations and revisit them frequently. 2. Use trials. 3. Do what you say. 4. Perpetually delight customers. 5. Embrace social networks and go deep. 6. Value transparency, but protect privacy.

Sharing as the next stage of the information economy

Lisa Gansky:

"When you start looking for them, "share platforms" are everywhere. Some of history's cleverest business minds understood the power of share platforms, from the aggressive titans who made fortunes building the nation's railroads to Conrad Hilton, who created the first premier brand of international hotels. Now a new era of sharing-based businesses is beginning - businesses as big as Netflix or Zipcar, and as small as a guy who rents Christmas trees.

Up to now, the information revolution has primarily swept through industries and services that are or can be digital - numbers, text, sound, images, and video. Related sectors, such as banking, publishing, music, photos, and movies, have undergone massive change. Now mobile networks are rapidly expanding that disruption to physical goods and venues, including hotels, cars, apparel, tools, and equipment.

That's possible because of our GPS-enabled mobile devices move in real space and time with us. The network can connect us to the things we want exactly when we want them. We can increasingly gain convenient access to these goods, greatly reducing the need to own them. Why buy, maintain, and store a table saw or a lawn mower or a car when they are easily and less expensively available to use when we want them?

Something else has changed, too. The credit and spending binge has left us with a different kind of hangover. We need a way to get the goods and services we actually want and need, but at less cost, both personal and environmental. Fortunately, we're quickly gaining more power to do so. A new model is starting to take root and grow, one in which consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more power to guide these choices. I call this emerging model "The Mesh."

The competitive advantages the Mesh offers in today's information-soaked environment will pose a persistent and growing threat to traditional business models. For example, Blockbuster's Wayne Huizenga grew highly profitable enterprises by recognizing the advantages of share platforms. Whether he was dealing in Dumpsters or videos, his core strategy was to invest in products that customers could use over and over again.

But Netflix knew that Blockbuster's Achilles' heel was late fees. Blockbuster's revenue model depended on the fees, but customers hated them - its best customers were the most likely to be punished. Netflix realized that if it could create a profitable business model that didn't require late fees, it'd win. It introduced a subscription model that allowed customers to watch and return movies at their own pace.

What clinched Netflix's advantage, though, was that it functioned as an information business. Early on, Netflix began using a customer's prior selections and ratings to suggest other videos that might be of interest. As the service developed, the company added layers of information to inform a user's choices, such as reviews from people in the network whose profile of selections and ratings were similar. Recently, it sponsored a contest awarding a million dollars to anyone who could significantly improve the movie recommendation service.

Netflix's more robust and networked share platform gave it the power to collect and crunch consumer, usage, and product data to shape customized offers. And in a business blink of the eye, Netflix replaced Blockbuster as the dominant player in the category. In the future, the byword will be "convergence"--of TV, the Internet, and mobile devices. Netflix remains well positioned to compete in that arena as a sophisticated information company with a trusted brand.

Walmart is the largest retailer in the world. The company sells many cheap, throwaway goods. Moving those goods across the globe and country burns energy. True, Walmart is taking steps, and setting a good example, to reduce its carbon footprint. But a bigger, Meshier opportunity lies before them and other big-box retailers.

Big-box retailers are poised to take advantage of a richer part of the value chain. They could move from being huge retailers to becoming huge product service and repair providers. Walmart and other big-boxers could become the center of gravity for the conservation of goods, employ people with actual know-how, and develop deeper, longer term, more profitable relationships with their customers.

Most of Walmart's business, of course, is selling stuff. It sells a customer the cheapest TV or toaster today, expecting her to come back in a few years to again buy the new model of cheap TV or toaster. But every part of the value chain--manufacturing the toaster in China, shipping it, warehousing it, stocking it, and disposing of it--involves considerable waste. Setting aside the inevitable costs of climate change, or any future carbon taxes, a considerable part of that waste is in fossil fuels that are becoming scarcer, more costly to extract, and higher in price. That's a significant risk to Walmart's current business model, one that company itself is beginning to recognize.

What if, instead, Walmart guaranteed a customer the best-priced TV and toaster way into the future? If the TV breaks in three years or five years, Walmart repairs it, or offers upgrades that are less expensive than buying a new one. At the end of its life, the company reclaims the old TV, upcycles the parts and materials, and offers the customer a discount on a new one.

Members of a "Walmart Share Club" could be given a special password to a daily online auction on used equipment certified to be in good working condition. The auction would include many items that other customers traded up--customers grateful for a way to deal with unused consumer electronic devices that they don't know what the hell to do with. REI, for example, has had success with offering a discount on new skis when people return their older ones. REI then refurbishes the old skis and offers them as rentals.

A shift toward access and service would deepen the big-box retailer's relationship to customers, and win their loyalty. A service focus would bring more rewarding, frequent, and lasting contact with grateful customers. It's fundamentally a different business model, with additional rich profit." (


Sharing Directory

  1. accessories & gifts
  2. books & writing ,
  3. business & innovation , (Book Commons
  4. careers, jobs & vocation ,
  5. creativity, media & the arts ,
  6. diy ,
  7. education ,
  8. energy , Sharing Energy
  9. entertainment ,
  10. farming & gardening ,
  11. fashion & clothing ,
  12. finance & economics ,
  13. food & drink ,
  14. government ,
  15. health & fitness ,
  16. home improvement ,
  17. kids' stuff ,
  18. marketing services ,
  19. mobility ,
  20. natural resources & environment ,
  21. real estate ,
  22. seasonal & holidays ,
  23. technology & data ,
  24. travel ,
  25. upcycling & recycling ,

More Information

See also the Mesh Business directory