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Pop-Up Human Capital: A New Employment Model?

Around the world, it’s becoming easier than ever to sell yourhuman capital - the sum total of your knowledge, experiences and talents – to the highest bidder. Using new P2P marketplaces like Sidetour and Gidsy, you can sell a lifetime’s worth of experiences and memories the same way you might sell a pair of used shoes. Using educational marketplaces like Skillshare, you can sell your esoteric knowledge to people with an interest in a specific topic. And by taking advantage of sites like TaskRabbit, it’s easier than ever to earn quick bucks for completing mundane tasks for people who live near you. In major cities from New York to San Francisco to Berlin, the pop-up human capital store is fast becoming a reality. Douglas Rushkoff even suggests that this “more freelance, direct P2P means of exchange is going to replace what we thought of as employment.”

Gidsy NYCBuilding on the popularity of P2P marketplaces like Airbnb and Etsy, these new “experience marketplaces” are making it possible for individuals to host one-time experiences the way they might host a friend in an apartment — anything from city tours to teaching a musical instrument to learning how to buy quality wine. Unlike other P2P marketplaces that specialize in the exchange of products, these new P2P marketplaces trade in experiences. Perhaps the best-known is Gidsy (ahem, Ashton Kutcher just became an investor), which launched last November in Berlin and New York. Gidsy – which has been referred to as “an Etsy for experiences” – makes it possible for individuals to take advantage of beautifully-designed online templates to offer their experiences to the highest bidder. Unlike other P2P marketplaces that involve the sale of tangible goods or real estate, these marketplaces are selling something much more intangible – human capital.

Moreover, these new P2P marketplaces tie into the whole collaborative consumptiontrend, which emphasizes new models for the efficient allocation of goods and services within the economy. That means the more efficient allocation of labor as well. Until now, if you wanted to offer something like piano lessons to kids, your entrepreneurial options were pretty much limited to creating an entry on Craigslist, advertising online, or relying on word-of-mouth from your neighbors. Now you can set up a page on Gidsy, price it out, and turn it into a business.

Sound far-fetched? Keep in mind that Airbnb started off in the same way, as just a way for people to share their couches with friends and acquaintances. Now Airbnb has the major hospitality players running scared, concerned that travelers no longer want the safe, cookie-cutter experience they’ve been getting for so long. The Next Web calls Gidsy “one to watch” for its ability to disrupt several industries at once:

“While AirBnB disrupted a large industry, Gidsy has the potential to disrupt lots of small ones – from piano teachers to tour guides. In fact, the startup is targeting experiences run by individuals, rather than businesses. This is all about the long tail of events and classes that have been difficult to advertise effectively online until now.”

Just as companies create pop-up stores during the holidays or during certain promotional periods, P2P marketplaces for the exchange of services make it possible for individuals to create their own little pop-up human capital stores, wherever they happen to be, and for as long as they want. This concept can be especially empowering for any individual who is unemployed (or under-employed) – or even someone who is employed and is interested in trying out a new career path. We’ve been trained to think of small businesses as the driver of economic growth and new employment in the economy, but it might just be the case that this model of employment needs a good re-think. People are now able to create opportunities for themselves, without waiting for businesses to start hiring. Watch for the new pop-up human capital store, coming to a city near you.

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