The sharing economy is taking some quirky twists and turns as people leverage the social aspect of the internet to help other people – and themselves – create an income.
If you’re a small business owner and entrepreneur you’ve probably already heard of Airbnb, Fiverr.com and Uber – all are international success stories emerging from the new industry. It’s becoming so popular that the likes of Hilary Clinton have noticed its influence on our lives:
This on-demand, or so-called ‘gig economy’, is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation. But it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.This ‘third way of working’ offers people the opportunity to make money in their preferred way in their spare time, sometimes in addition to full-time employment. And some of the services on offer are more unusual than others, but certainly no less needed by the public.
Choose your loo
AirPnP is a new platform that lets people party and pee. Yes, folks, you read that correctly. Party ‘n’ pee. It has a certain tinkle to it, no?
So, how does it work? Imagine you’re at street party or carnival. You’re having the time of your life, but there’s one very annoying problem, which simply can’t be put it off. There's nothing else to do but pause your fun to look for a portaloo or skulk into a local pub to use its facilities.
App designed for Mardis Gras
AirPnP is a simple solution to this extremely common problem. New Orleans dweller and serial entrepreneur, Travis Laurendine, set up the app when he’d heard that the portable toilets had been banned from the Mardis Gras parade route.
To give revellers somewhere to go during the festivities, he launched an app where people could rent their bathrooms for free or for a fee. Those in need of urgent relief simply find their nearest facility for hire on AirPnP's map.
What was originally supposed to be a bit of fun has become a hugely popular year-round app for anyone caught short during street festivals, for tourists planning a loo-break on a stroll through Antwerp. According the USA Today, 2,000 people have already listed their loos on the app.
Laurendine explains in an interview with Startup Van:
We built the app over a weekend as a sort of a joke and it became an international sensation. Then we built a real app around it because the demand was there.
Travis Laurendine, AirPnP
Use a loo and review!
AirPnP might have started as a bit of a laugh, but Laurendine realized the app was solving an important customer pain point. Now, users can choose their ideal facility by reading descriptions of cleanliness, quality of loo roll (if you refuse to go below 4 ply, you need to know what the deal is), and how opulent – or basic – the bathroom is. Guests leave a review after use.
While browsing UK toilets listed on AirPnP, I notice that Paddy Power in London is offering free use of its facilities – as long as visitors don’t mind being the subject of research on how people “gamble on the john”. Interesting offer. But the luxury lavatory in Mayfair is much more appealing and probably worth the £10 charge for the special experience!
Although still a startup, if AirPnP means we never need to depend on under-serviced public conveniences again, we're going to be a very relieved bunch.
AirPnP is just one project developed by Laurendine (he's also working with the UN on helping to fund bathroom-building in developing countries, by the way). He also runs New Orleans-based hackathon organization, CODEMKRS, and his 'real' job is CEO of LA Labs – a tech platform enabling entertainers to manage and monetize their digital presence.
But it's his AirPnP idea that looks set to flush out the competition in a world currently showering us with an array of shared services.