As more and more people worldwide participate in the sharing economy, it’s becoming easier than ever to be your own boss and earn money on your own schedule.

I attended the first Airbnb Open Conference last week in San Francisco and got an up-close and personal look at one of the most popular, high growth companies in the world. Over 1,400 people from around the globe who ‘share their space’ to travellers gathered together in one place to network and learn best practices from a top industry leader.

I met Brian Chesky, the Founder and CEO of Airbnb, and Chip Conley, a hotelier in San Francisco who works for Airbnb as Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy. I was struck by everyone’s enthusiasm and vision to create one simple message – Airbnb is the new face of hospitality. While technology may be at the forefront of their platform, it is the face-to-face connections they are creating for millions that makes them unique. They are in 34,000 cities, 190 countries and boast more than 25 million total guest visits. They place huge emphasize on global growth and local love.

The Sharing Economy

From a business standpoint, Airbnb offers a unique proposition. They do not own any property (aside from their head office in San Francisco which presumably is leased) and unlike traditional hotels, they have zero inventory. Their product is you. Every person who rents their space out on Airbnb (called a host) has equal access and footing to build and create a personal presence on Airbnb’s website that can be nurtured over time leading to huge success. Many people have made a ‘side’ income that is nothing to squawk at. Hosts earning over tens of thousands of dollars from their property listing on Airbnb is not uncommon.

Airbnb earns revenue by taking a percentage of the transaction between host and guest. Their success, however, has not come without substantial bruising along the way. Hotels, condo boards and government regulators have all raised red flags and claimed foul play when it comes to Airbnb’s business model. What they call and ‘unlevel playing field’ due to concerns about safety, insurance, and taxes has led to much debate on the issue. Protests against Airbnb and Uber have cropped up worldwide. In Toronto, an injunction against Uber has been recently sought.

San Francisco just passed legislation allowing Airbnb to operate in the city, while imposing specific limitations. In Canada, Airbnb has established an office in Toronto to address some of these concerns head on. From Airbnb’s standpoint, participants are kept ‘honest’ from reviews that hosts leave for guests, and vice-versa, creating a sense of community and trust. For the most part, nobody wants to get a bad review and the transaction runs smoothly.

Be Your Own Boss

The world of work is forever changed. Companies like Airbnb and Uber are allowing you to be your own boss. You can set your hours, and you can decide how involved you’d like to be in the process. I know of one single mother who rents a room in her home on Airbnb and then drives her car for UberX during the day while her son is in school. Companies are even cropping up in Canada to provide assistance to those wishing to rent their spaces out on Airbnb, but don’t have the time to do it.

Whether or not you agree with Airbnb or Uber’s presence in the market, there is no denying that both companies are taking the world by storm and changing the world of work for millions. For frustrated job seekers not having much luck in the labour market, creating a side income in the sharing economy can be all too tempting. Who wouldn’t want to make some extra money while they are in between jobs? It is such an accessible and attractive option. High profile companies like Airbnb and Uber are counting on exactly this.

What do you think of companies like Airbnb and Uber? Do you currently make money by participating in the sharing economy, or have used their services? Let me know your thoughts.


Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of He can be reached at