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The evolving gig economy

This morning venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote a post on his blog talking about the gig economy and Hillary Clinton’s economic speech last night. 

Here’s a snippet from Clinton’s talk:

Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

So, all of these trends are real and none, none is going away. But they do not determine our destiny. The choices we make as a nation matter. And the choices we make in the years ahead will set the stage for what American life in the middle class and our economy will be like in this century.

The headlines this morning are making it seem like Hillary Clinton is taking direct aim at companies like Uber. But the transcript suggests that she’s being far more balanced than that: these new companies are creating exciting opportunities, and they are not going away, but there are still things to figure out.

That’s basically how I feel.

Take, for example, Airbnb. I think Airbnb is a great idea and company. A lot of my friends use it both as consumers and as suppliers of space.

But for many (most?) condos in Toronto, owners are strictly prohibited from renting out their units on leases that are less than six months. It’s a direct ban on short-term leasing and it’s written into the Condo Corporation’s Declaration.

And there’s good reason for that. Who wants to buy a condo only to find out that next door is being operated as a nightly hotel? Most people would even prefer that their neighbor is an owner rather than a renter.

That doesn’t mean I believe Airbnb should not exist. I think we’ll likely end up getting more transparent about how buildings (and portion of buildings) are operating, as opposed to it being a shadow economy. And that could help.

If you have any ideas for how companies like Airbnb might be better integrated into urban life, I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

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