The next Unicorn Sharing Economy App Will Sell By-Products

June 2, 2016 - 2 minutes read


By-products are a huge problem in the global economy, on both the large and small scale. Six hot dogs in a package and eight buns in a bag? Chances are the leftovers get wasted. A plane crosses the Atlantic with ten empty seats? You can practically smell the money burning.

Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried wrote a fascinating meditation on the subject of by-products, or “leftovers,” way back in 2009. His suggestion that the mobile app development industry wasn’t fully leveraging the “leftover economy” turned out to be absolutely true — some of the biggest unicorns of the startup world that have emerged since then function by helping their users monetize things they already have lying around. Rideshare startups like Uber and Lyft, for example, monetize your extra car. AirBnB helps users monetize their spare rooms, or rent an apartment while out of town.

The sharing economy may be becoming a crowded space, but there’s still room for at least a few more unicorn-level mobile app developers following similar models. The thing that will separate the merely-successful from the uber-successful, however, will be this attention to the question of leftover resources.

Whether or not the economy continues to slump into a recession in coming years, users always love to monetize things they already do. When times are tough, it’s necessity. When times are easy, it’s thriftiness. On a more abstract level, social networks like Facebook and Snapchat are driven by a similar impulse — the desire to be “discovered” or validated, just for being yourself and sharing in a public place.

By-products aren’t limited to mobile app users, however. Toronto iPhone app developers are as guilty as software developers everywhere of overlooking opportunities to monetize their own in-house by-products. From documenting the design process to help other designers (Getting Real Web App Guide) to standardizing in-house programing frameworks (Ruby on Rails), the possibilities for monetization are frequently overlooked.

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