Notes from my Sharing Economy talk to CU students

Watch a video created by PivotDesk showing “A Day in the Life of the Sharing Economy”.  Using car sharing, home sharing and new service models are now the new normal for some people.

Many companies are renting inventory they own.  Technology and insurance innovation enables people to share this inventory.

  • Zipcar
  • Car2Go
  • Netflix

The phrase “access over ownership” is used to describe these Business to Consumer marketplaces.

There are new examples of B2B services such as Getable.

Many companies now capitalize on remnant assets.  Extra office space, under utilized cars and camping gear that gets used once a year are all examples of remnant assets.

These marketplaces enable peer-to-peer transactions.

Leveraging spare time has created some of the most successful sharing economy companies.

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Homejoy
  • Rover
  • TaskRabbit
  • Postmates
  • Instacart

Companies considered part of the “sharing economy” are mostly marketplaces.

  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • oDesk
  • Thumbtack
  • OpenTable
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor

Marketplaces characteristics include:

  • Liquidity
  • Curation
  • Ratings and Reviews
  • Frictionless payment
  • Mobile
  • Social Proof
  • Frequency
  • Network Effects

Here’s a quick slide deck I built using HaikuDeck.

And here are a few links I recommend for anyone thinking about marketplaces:

All Markets Are Not Created Equal: 10 Factors To Consider When Evaluating Digital Marketplaces by Bill Gurley

Marketplaces One Pager

Sharing’s Not Just for Start-Ups
by Rachel Botsman

MBA Case Study: Craft Brewing

Each term of the Executive MBA program is a combination of two complementary courses, this term is Operations and Marketing.  My Group analyzed Troegs Brewing Company for our term project.  My old friend Chris Trogner is “brother and co-founder” of the brewery and was gracious enough to give us a tour and spend the day talking about Craft Brewing and adding Customer value through Marketing and Operations.


View more photos of the visit to Troegs Brewing Company

Using Lean Manufacturing Techniques

I have been using a Kanban flow system to manage software development on my team at PR Newswire.  One of the techniques in this aspect of Lean Manufacturing is using Visual Communication Boards to highlight work in progress.  Among the sophisticated brewing equipment at Troegs you will find simple, clear methods of visual communication enabling teams to work together.


The beer industry has a 3 tier system of distribution in which the Brewery produces the beer and sells to the Wholesaler.  The Wholesaler warehouses the beer and distributes to the Retailer (bars, restaurants, liquor stores).  Each state has different laws, each type of alcohol has different distributor focus and the whole system is very competitive.  Next time you walk into a liquor store or notice tap handles at a bar, think about all of the negotiation and strategy that goes into convincing you to choose a certain beer.  I learned how important it is to be “on the handle” and “between eyes and thighs”.  Not the type of thing I consider when building software but now I see these concepts everywhere I buy anything.


Yes, Craft Breweries compete wth each other but I was impressed at how collaborative the industry as a whole is.  It reminded me of the Boulder tech scene, lots of competition but “the rising tide lifts all boats” mentality is ever present.  One of my favorite stories is about Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.  Russian River and Avery Brewing Company both had a beer called Salvation.  Instead of suing each other over the naming rights, they decided to collaborate and make an amazing beer together.  I heard numerous stories of brewmasters visiting and touring other breweries to discuss the mechanics of brewing better beer with other brewmasters.

This project was a wonderful experience.  I am continuously impressed at how generous people are with their time.  Special thanks to Chris from Troegs Brewing Company and Sean from CR Goodman for taking the time to drink a beer with my Group and talk about Craft Beer.


Unfortunately, carrying around a heavy backpack full of textbooks is a reality for me these days.  I remember laughing out loud when I was told there were no digital options for these books, no iPad version, no online version.  I’m sure some amazing company like onswipe will help publishers with this problem, sadly I’ll be done with my MBA program by then I’m sure.

Textbooks are:

  • Not searchable. Instead of attempting to use indexes to look up terms in my book I just google them and usually end up on wikipedia.
  • Heavy. My work bag contains a MacBook Air, one folder, a pen and a pencil.  It’s light as a feather and I love that.  My school bag weighs almost 30 lbs and requires daily reorganizing of textbooks and supplemental materials (all tons of paper of course).
  • Hard to hold. Every morning I sit in this big, comfy chair in my living room in front of a fireplace drinking coffee and reading before work.  Because textbooks are so big and bulky I have to sit at the kitchen table all slumped over when reading course material.

The content in these textbooks matters to me and engages me, but the format is so awkward, bulky and archaic that I’m distracted and don’t enjoy the experience of  interacting with the material.  Now, where’s my highlighter?


My Blog writing style is now my writing style

As I am now required to write papers, summaries and personal assessments for my MBA classes, I’m realizing my writing style has changed since I last had to do projects like this.  My writing style is now my blog writing style.  I write as if I was talking to you, only in a more concise, thought-out kinda way.  The impact of blogging, email and status updates on my formal writing education is apparent.

Going through this experience has made me reflect on how I write (“written communication”) at work.  My job doesn’t require me to abide by any guidelines as an Investor Relations Officer or CFO might.  I write tons of emails, occasional internal blog posts, comment on internal posts, etc.  I am only judged on the effectiveness of my writing, nothing gramatical.  If I swear in an email and the impact is felt ultimately leading to improvement, then it’s been well written.

I am looking forward to seeing how my MBA professors respond to this style.  Will a looser, conversational tone be appreciated for easily communicating the point or will I be penalized for not following some set of outdated writing rules.  Maybe I’ll throw in a #hashtag for effect to test the boundaries.

Why would a Programmer get their MBA?

I was an Information Systems major at the CU Boulder Business School when I taught myself some HTML and took programming classes like C and VB alongside stats, accounting, principles of database design and marketing, circa 1996.  Since then my life as a professional Programmer seems to have come to an end and the next chapter is beginning.

For the past 2 years I’ve worked as a “Product Owner” for PR Newswire.  A Product Owner bridges Product Management and Software Development, understanding the business, customer and market as well as the code, deployments and infrastruture (see Agile).  I love this job and it’s perfect for me.  My 10 years as a Programmer gave me the foundation for building great software, however I felt weaknesses in my business knowledge, specifically as I work more and more with the corporate enterprise (budgets, financial statements, etc).

So, I’ve decided to get my MBA.

The Executive MBA program from the University of Colorado is right down the street from my office in downtown Denver, the class is full of experienced colleagues from a variety of industries and I’m really digging this so far.  The program meets one day a week, alternating Fri and Sat.  We take 2 classes at once, currently Leadership and Financial Accounting.

My observations after the first 2 weeks:

  • I can now easily read and understand Financial Statements: 10k, 10q, 8k, Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flow and Shareholder’s Equity
  • I spend every other day throughout the week with an Auditor, Bond Trader, Marketer and Product Manager, my Class Group for the next 2 years and my new best friends.  It’s a wonderfully new perspective and I’m enjoying sharing it with this group.
  • CU is 5 years behind the technology curve.  I have heavy textbooks, lots of paper and everything is Powerpoint, jump drives and, no joke, overhead projectors (think: Jr High science class).  This has been a bummer given my current MacBook Air, global distributed team and cloud based tooling for every single aspect of my life.
  • Spending 1 day a week thinking about business finance/accounting and leadership is incredibly refreshing and energizes me for my daily life at PR Newswire.  It’s like having an offsite once/week.
  • 2 big resources for me already have been MBA Mondays and Finance Fridays

Several of my Business Heroes advised me against getting my MBA but gave me tons of support applying.  I really appreciate that and think about their opinions weekly.  I’ve loved comparing my MBA experience with their advice “F the MBA, if you really want to learn about business go work for a startup!”  I want them to know that in the past week I’ve cited TechStars, Do More Faster and the Boulder, NYC tech scene almost every time I’ve opened my mouth to say something about financing, executing or kicking ass in general, Thank you.

Back to studying!