The monopoly bias in the sharing economy

This struck me as an interesting case that reveals a broader truth about the sharing economy. A description of the very early merger of two companies offering city wide access to unused capacity in fitness classes, from Sweat Equity, by Jason Kelly, loc 1343:

“When you look at quality fitness inventory in each city, there aren’t thousands of studios,” Kapoor says. “You’re talking in the hundreds range, so the supply is limited. It’s difficult for more than one marketplace to win aggregating this type of supply. We asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to go head to head like Uber and Lyft? Maybe it makes sense to come together. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to help the industry for us to spend time and resources fighting each other versus focusing on our partners and consumers.’”

The evolution of one of the two companies is itself quite interesting, detailed on the same location in the book:

Founder Kadakia created the company, initially called Classtivity, as a one-time (one-month) sampler; the service was called the Passport, and it allowed the user to try out various workouts with the assumption that she’d settle on a favorite and join up. The Passport holder was entitled to skip around, depending on mood and availability of classes, and pick what to do that day. One New York magazine writer dubbed it “How to have an open relationship with exercise.” It was such a good idea that people wanted to do it for more than a month.

The author makes the interesting point that the transitory nature of the ensuing experience erodes the shared experiences which he argues are integral to understanding the fitness boom. From loc 1374:

One thing ClassPass lacks is a community. Sure, there are lots of ClassPassers running around, and users may collude by text and e-mail to grab a couple of free spots in the same cycling or barre class. But ClassPass removes a key element of what makes so many of its client boutiques so attractive in the first place—the ability to show up, on a regular basis, with your people.

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