Since the phenomenon of the sharing economy was first defined in 2011 as one of the ten trends that would change the world, many startups have been created and grown under this business model.

The phenomenon is growing at a great rate, in 2015 it generated gross revenues in the European Union of 28 billion euros, according to a report by the European Commission, and according to data from the consultancy PWC in 2016 there was talk of a potential global market that could reach 570.00 $0 million by 2025.

However, the popularization of the collaborative economy term has generated a lot of confusion about its meaning, something that, according to the Spanish Association of the Digital Economy (Adigital), must be avoided if new linked sectors are to be promoted and regulated internet.

For this same reason is why this Association together with Sharing Spain have presented “the first study that defines what is and what is not collaborative economy and that also classifies the activities that take place within the digital platforms that operate in this sector.” Looking at aspects such as the role of platforms and the role of users within them.

“From Sharing Spain we have been seeing an increasing fragmentation of this concept, from rather restrictive approaches, which only consider the collaborative economy of the models between individuals or P2P (peer to peer), to broader positions also considered including the so-called economy on demand or access,” said José Luis Zimmermann, CEO of Adigital and spokesperson for Sharing Spain. “That’s why we’ve considered it appropriate to conduct this analysis and classification exercise.”

For this categorization, Adigital takes particular aim at the role of platforms in three phenomena such as the sharing economy, on-demand economy and access economy.

“The activity of the platform is that of intermediation of an information society service provider”, says the study. “This activity, by itself, is not what is considered a collaborative economy or on demand, but is a commercial intermediation activity that favors contact between users so that they are the ones who can carry out the activities of the sharing or on-demand economy themselves.”

Types of users and activities

But first, before categorization, Adigital explains the types of users who use these platforms and the kind of activity that may be between them. First, Adigital distinguishes between, user, any natural or legal person who registers on one of these platforms and who interacts with other registered persons; consumer, who is that user who relates to professionals within the platform; Adigital defines provider, as the user who leverages these platforms as a sales channel, in addition to its traditional one; is the user who carries several activities or provides several services for profit and through one or more platforms; and finally Adigital speaks of the profile of the non-professional, which is a user who carries out a non-profit activity without any commercial intention, and through one or more platforms.

With regard to the activities that users can carry out, Adigital distinguishes between altruistic and donation activities, are those that are carried out free of charge or for the purpose of an exchange, the profile of the non-professional are the ones that most they carry out this activity; non-profit activities are those activities aimed at sharing expenses among users in order to cover the costs, but not to profit, the best example is to share a car; and finally there are the activities for profit, in these activities generates an equity gain that exceeds the basic expenses, this generates a benefit for the supplier user.

Collaborative economy?

Within the collaborative economy, models in which a digital platform acts as an intermediary, facilitating the use, exchange or investment of goods or resources, between peers (individuals or companies), or in particular professional (provided it starts from the former as it does in crowdfunding), with or without financial consideration between users.

Examples such as private home rental (AirBnB and Couchsurfing), or carpooling, would include applications such as Blablacar and Amovens, crowdfunding with applications such as Goteo, Verkami or ULULE (crowdfunding platform of Europe’s leading reward that help entrepreneurs make their ideas come true), and the sale and rental of second-hand items, with apps like eBay, Wallapop or Relendo.

Economy on demand

In the on-demand economy, you can find those consumption models and services based on the intermediation between supply and demand normally generated from professional to consumer (B2C), that is, a commercial relationship is established between users

This intermediation is generated through digital platforms, which acts as an intermediary, and whose provision originates based on the needs and preferences that the user demands, usually being provided in exchange for an economic consideration and usually for profit.

The difference between this type of and collaborative models is that between users there is always a commercial relationship, that is, they are platforms on which the provision of a service takes place either by professionals or by individuals, depending on the model.

Two examples of platforms of this style for the transport sector would be UberX or Cabify, and for the microtasking sector there is Etece, a service marketplace, where they connect clients with self-employed professionals to perform tasks of the home and office.

Access economy

Finally, in Adigital’s study, they define the access economy as those consumer models in which a company, for commercial purposes, “makes available to a set of users goods for temporary use, adapting to the time of effective use that require these users and make their spatial location more flexible.”

That is, practices such as carsharing or coworking, according to Adigital, should not be classified as a sharing economy, but as an access economy.

While the sharing economy already promotes access to property ownership is not exclusive to that, instead the access economy refers only to models in which the digital platform does provide the underlying service and users normally do not have direct contact with each other to carry out the transactions.

Examples of this type of economy would be Bluemove or Car2Go, which allow to share a car that is owned by the company that owns the platform, among several people in a non-simultaneous way. The same applies to coworking spaces that allow the rental of work areas for short or longer periods of time, such as PopPlaces, a rental platform for spaces for days founded in Spain.

Types of sectors of activity

As both the sharing economy and the on-demand economy and the access economy grow, more and more business models are being generated that need to be categorized, these models, Adigital and Sharing Spain have classified them by sectors, thus differentiating between activities related to accommodation, finance, mobility and transport, tasks and work, consumption in general, knowledge and information, gastronomy and models based on user communities.

Within the housing sector, you can find, the temporary model between private, the temporary B2C and the exchange of houses. In the finance sector, there are crowdfunding of donation, crowdfunding of rewards, equity crowdfunding, crowdlending, crowdgifting, fintech P2P or P2B, P2P insurance and currency exchange between individuals.

With regard to the mobility and transport sector are carpooling, car sharing, ridepooling, car rental between private individuals, parking spaces, train, vehicle services with driver, shared bike services, Logistics P2P B2C logistics. In the task and work sector are the banks of time, tourism of experiences and tour guides, general microtasks and specialized microtareas.

In the consumer sector are the crowdticketing, gift, barter or recirculation of goods, sale and sale of second-hand items, rental of second-hand objects, loan of objects between individuals, wiFi, energy, spaces and coworking. For knowledge and education are the models of P2P education, B2B education, DIY production and information. In the gastronomy are, share food between individuals, share tupper among individuals, consumer groups, shared crops, communities, and collaborative tools.

According to Adigital and Sharing Spain it is difficult to define the fiscal, labor limits, from which an individual ceases to be that to be a professional supplier, but by delimiting each of the points dealt with and setting income limits that determine when there is profit, you can have a clearer idea.

“The collaborative economy needs a detailed and appropriate study on a case-by-case basis by the Administration,” says José Luis Zimmermann.