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Have You Heard About “Mesh” Businesses?

At AMA’s Podcast program “Edgewise,” Lisa Gansky, the founder and CEO of multiple Internet companies, including GNN and Ofoto, talked about her recent book on these Mesh Businesses and how it will reshape how we go to market, who we partner with, and how we engage new customers.

The book is aptly titled The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing (Portfolio/Penguin) and in it Gansky, a pioneering entrepreneur, writes about how this business model will change how business is conducted. Gansky referred to it as the “buy less, use more” trend and advised how it is driving new businesses and reinventing old ones in industries of all types. Seth Godin, who has set trends, offers this advice on the book’s jacket, “The Mesh will have you taking notes (and then taking action).”

During her interview, Gansky mentioned, as a case in point, Zipcar which provides prospective customers informaiton via the Web to help them locate and reserve the kind of car they want and they can use these cars for an hour or for a day or more. The cars are clean, well maintained, well located, and in every way reliable. As information about its customers grow, the company finds opportunities for partnerships with food and wine, hotel, fitness, and other companies; as Gansky explained, “Each new service creates opportunities to grow with like-minded business partners.” Evidence of Zipcar’s success is that Hertz, Enterprise, and Daimler have all launched car-sharing services.

Other examples include:

thredUP that enables mail-in kids’ clothing swaps. According to Gansky, one year after its launch, the company has 10,000 members exchanging more than 14,000 items per month.

Kickstarter that connects artists who need funding with small donors who want to support them. The firm has helped hundreds of projects raise as much as $100,000 without the usual problems in fundraising.

Crushpad Wine offers everything from high-quality grapes to bottling facilities to allow wine-lovers to blend their own bottles of wine without having to own a vineyard.

Groupon harnesses collective buying power to offer daily discounts to its five million subscribers. Sixteen months after its start, the company had raised over $170 million in venture capital.

Gansky told the program’s host David Summers, “Traditional businesses follow a simple formula: create a product or service, sell it, collect money. On the other hand, Mesh companies use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services exactly when they need them, without even the burden and expense of owning them outright. And, for those who have created Mesh businesses, there is real money to be made and strong communities of customers to be built at a time when customer loyalty is no longer guaranteed.

For individuals who want to learn more about Mesh ventures, there is a directory of over 1,000 existing Mesh ventures at www.meshing.it, according to Gansky. There are listings of businesses in finance, fashion, real estate, food and wine, energy, technology, gardening, transportation, home improvement, and the like. For each section, there is a brief description of how the businesses leverage the power of the Mesh and make access to goods and services superior to owning them. “Right now,” Gansky wrote in her book, “there are seemingly endless opportunities.”



About the Author(s)

Florence M. Stone is editorial director for the American Management Association.