Almost six years ago I took a gap year and, I decided to spend some time away from Italy, in Australia. Back there I found a guy that told me about this movement: the biohacking. Basically, a bunch of tinkerers started to use their garages as biotechnology laboratories with the aim to make those biological technologies available to everyone.
From that moment I started a path that led me to follow many movements and initiatives that are trying to create alternatives to existing power infrastructures.
My name is Damiano Avellino, I’m 24 years old. I’m one of the founders of Fairbnb and of other non-profit initiatives that seek to create a more inclusive and fair society.
During my years at the University, where I studied biotechnology, my curiosity was fed by great Professors during the day and by biohackers geeks on the internet during the night.
My first attempt to create a biohacker space dates at my freshman year, as you can imagine the excitement of my colleagues vanished due to the pressure of our studies and the difficulty of the journey.
The problem wasn’t related to the goodness of the project, both other colleagues and professors seemed thrilled by the idea of having an open source lab for biotechnology. What stopped the initiative was the lack of support and guidance from existing organizations incapable of grasping and helping to fund new ideas.
In general, there’s a tendency for new initiatives to struggle in the initial fundraising. It’s easier to get funded if you are already big or active enough.
If you have applied for any grant, you know how competitive these things can be, and
probably you understand how the abundances of projects and the lack of funding
tend to lower the diversity of the ecosystems and sometimes discourage innovative ideas - This doesn’t apply to for-profit start-ups that can rely on other types of financial support (VC, Business angels, etc) -.
Anyway, this part of my story is not what I’m here to write about.
I’m here to write about emerging opportunities we have to finance bottom up initiatives, that are not exploiting, related to a viable strategy to transform existing sharing economy platforms in a mechanism to perpetually fund non-profit projects and grassroots initiatives.
This story is about an ongoing project that could pilot a new model of sharing economy that by succeeding could lead to the flourish of a new collaborative economy.
Fairbnb is in an early stage, we didn’t launch the beta yet, but I’m convinced for some reasons that I will briefly explain at the end, that it represents a huge opportunity to change the digital economy.
Why should we attempt to change the digital economy?
Well, during the last ten years our economy has been completely “platformed”: the largest taxi company doesn’t own any cars (Uber), the world’s biggest media owner creates no content (Facebook) and so on. In almost every sectors a single player with a “platform business model” dominates.
There are two main problems with this:
Platforms that succeed are the best for investors not for users (the growth is achieved thanks to massive investments), therefore are extractive, so Amazon takes % on the little bookstore sales, Airbnb takes % on your house, etc.
Platforms tend to become a natural monopoly due to the network effect.
(I’m not mentioning how we lost our privacy and the possibility to have control over the data that we generate because it could lead us too far)
My intention to create an alternative to this model grew with time and thanks to some precise experiences.
I firstly became interested in platforms thanks to Eugenio Battaglia (Platform Design Toolkit) with whom I share the passion for biohacking.
He gave me the Pentagrowth report and fulfilled my head with other absorbing materials and thoughtful conversations that shaped my platform thinking.
The second crucial event happened last year when I was selected to participate in the Global Changemakers summit.
The rough idea that was floating in my mind, since probably a couple of years, had the chance to become a real project.
The idea to use part of the money generated by our online activities to redistribute wealth to local projects as an opposite model to the present one, that uses part of the wealth generated by our online activities to enrich billionaires, was simple and not probably not even that original.
But the fact that I had to attend a summit with 60 young activists all very influential in their communities and from all over the world gave me the chance to think concretely about a model for a particular platform that relies on crowdsourcing, and that could work.
The event took place in June 2016; there I brought the rough idea of a project called Solbnb (Solidaritybnb).
Since then the project merged with two other initiatives, which were also trying to create an alternative to Airbnb in Amsterdam and Barcelona, under the name of Fairbnb. Nine co-founders from five different countries and with an age range that goes from 24 to 50 are working together to build the platform along with a growing community.
The platform with shared ownership and control will be non-extractive, inclusive and cooperative.
The peer2peer accommodation market produces every year more than 1.5 billion dollars of revenues (the extracted part).
If Fairbnb will be able to take even a little share of the market, an incredible number of non-profit initiatives could be funded.
We want to use as little as possible of the revenues to keep up the platform and give back the majority of this money to communities through local projects thanks to a crowdfunding-like mechanism.
If we succeed thousands biohackers spaces, social streets, art exhibitions, solidarity initiatives, refugees projects, etc. could be funded.
As Janella Orsi highlight in this article https://goo.gl/0XK6Nu “That rumored $20 billion company valuation relies largely on the loyalty of users. Like I said, thin air.”
Yes… a non-extractive P2P accommodation platform most likely is the best opportunity that we have to pilot a new model of sharing economy that could produce positive externalities at an unprecedented scale.