Uber, Kickstarter and Airbnb have captured our attention. It isn’t just the fact that they have been valued at £billions - it is their tremendous growth and disruption of more conventional services that many of us are familiar with. Ordering a taxi, raising funding and finding a place to stay has never been so easy. These businesses are connecting people who want something with those who can provide it - nothing new. It is the way they are using technology that allows them to act at previously unimaginable scale, with responsiveness, user input and customisation built-in.
Riding this wave of interest are more startups than we’ll ever need, and they’re all trying to cash in on the phenomenon by creating the next 'Uber for X' or 'Airbnb for Y'. Much of this activity currently focuses around those ‘added value’ things in life and are aimed at relatively well-off people who are willing and able to use them; fixing your cracked iPhone screen, courier services, cleaning services.
There’s a gap here - and it is around how this type of approach can help those who are less well off, or who have more fundamental life challenges to face than catching a cab, staying in a hotel or raising cash for their startup.
For example, could we find ways to help those who require high-quality caring services for a family member at short notice? Could we match people in temporary accommodation with support and community services to improve their quality of life? Are there opportunities to link those who want to learn a new life-skill to those who are trying to improve employability?
What would the business models look like for platforms such as this? Perhaps they are hybrid funding models where private foundations and trusts combine resources with private sector donations of time and tech expertise; they will also likely require an element of income generation and public funding to ensure these organisations can sustain and develop effectively.
We’re interested in funding and supporting ideas that have the best potential to exploit these platform business models to make a real social impact. If you have an idea, even if it is early stage; or if you work for a public service or charity that could be interested in this area then we want to hear from you.
ShareLab Fund will support and fund ideas that use platform business models to make a real social impact. Find out more and apply at http://www.nesta.org.uk/nesta-sharelab-fund