Can your 5-Star driver become your 5-Star friend?

Did you ever think to invite your Uber driver to your post-game? It happens more than you think.

Whether continuing a conversation with your Uber driver inside your own home (as was the recent case with some mod residents), toasting a jägerbomb to your Drizly deliverer, or forging a new friendship with the person whose dog you signed up to petsit on Rover, the way in which people exchange goods and services is no longer merely an efficient transaction — it is a means by which we connect on a personal level.

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A new age marketplace has emerged. Whether you call it the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, or peer-to-peer exchange, both app developers and users are reinventing how our socioeconomic system functions through a “collaborative revolution.” 

For many, including London-based AirBnB host Sebastian Sandy, sharing marketplaces are more than just a means to make money, they are a means for social enrichment.

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In fact, as one of AirBnB’s first hosts, Sandys has been able to pursue his dream of managing a second-hand book shop through his AirBnB income. Most notably, his story is evidence of an interconnected community that remains loyal even after the point of transaction. So much so, that after the London riots, Sandys had 13 messages from former guests checking in to make sure he was safe.

The Importance of Trust

The bedrock of any effective peer-to-peer platform is trust. As Rachel Botsman describes in her TEDTalk “The Currency of the New Economy is Trust,” reputation and reliability are the social glue that make sharing possible. The user response on everything from AirBnB to Lyft (in which passengers are encouraged to sit in the front seat & interact with drivers), reveals that there is more than just accountability that informs this need for trust — people want to connect on a personal level. Thus it follows that the most effective apps become blue-chip platforms based on how they enable people to make meaningful connections while also maintaining a level of efficiency that consumers expect.

Lyft as the Poster Child

When building out their brand, the Lyft team created a community-centric platform based on relationships as opposed to impersonal transactions. Lyft is one of several sharing economy companies that grounds the globalized, mobile economy in the traditional principles of small town mercantile activities.

In fact, when asked how Lyft differs from Uber, co-founder and President John Zimmer had this to say:

“I think the two biggest areas of difference are, one, our mission. My co-founder and I have been working on this project for nine years now. We’ve always wanted to bring people together through transportation and I think the way that’s felt for the customers is we treat you better. Drivers can earn tips, drivers can earn driving bonuses and, by treating drivers better, drivers provide passengers with a better experience.”

In December 2016, Lyft released an engaging Pixar-esque animated short film created by Academy Award-winner John Kahrs that spotlights a lonely widow in historic South Chicago who is inspired to start sharing rides and in effect, her life. To top it off, the short film features the original song, “Movin,” written and performed by Sir the Baptist, a former Lyft driver who launched his music career after a connection with a Lyft passenger.

Of course, some platforms have room for improvement

For one thing, Uber CEO Kalanick could be doing a better job of building trust with both his users AND drivers.


Additionally, there is a site that allows people to “rent a friend” ~ whether it be a fake parent to sit in on a college disciplinary meeting or someone to place golf with. Not exactly an organic way to facilitate interconnectivity.


Going Forward

Ultimately, these peer-to-peer marketplaces allow for greater scope of distributing value for participants as they adapt to the evolving sharing economy landscape. As traditional business models continue to be disrupted by startups and larger companies adopt new ways to tap into the sharing economy, the platforms that promote trust and organically accommodate friendship will achieve greater competitive advantage. It is safe to say that many of these startups will not survive in the long run as the marketplace dynamics evolve, but a continued focus on how the user behavior influences these platforms is something to keep a close eye on going forward. Whether partaking in bike sharing services across major cities via Spinster or tapping into the world’s largest book-club through PaperBackSwap (my personal favorite), there are few limits to the connections that a trustworthy platform can generate.

Feel free to leave any questions, feedback or stories about how the sharing economy has impacted your life in the comments section below.


  1. alexisteixeiraa · ·

    This is an awesome post that addresses many points to how ride sharing has developed relationships and expanded people’s horizons in terms of interactions. I remember first starting to use Uber and would always speak to the drivers; however, my friends thought it was weird of me to ask them so many questions. It has now become a running joke because I find out so much about these people’s lives and have been invited to events, offered free products as many of them are struggling entrepreneurs themselves, and even given amazing advice in my short car rides. You never know who you are going to meet in these cars and I think this post is a great example of why this new platform is changing the way we travel and interact with people! Thank you!

  2. DanKaplan · ·

    I really appreciated this post. I heard an ironic story that actually matches up a little bit with this about a friend from NYC who met a taxi driver that became their “personal” driver. Instead of worrying about going to the curb every day before work in search of a cab, they would call the driver and he would show up each and every day at the same time. The driver ended up become a personal friend and they actually went out to dinner a few times. I think there is opportunity within these ride sharing companies for this niche, especially in bigger cities like NYC and Chicago.

  3. katherinelgold · ·

    Really well-researched post! You pinpointed that the underlying theme is trust. I saw a tweet once that said when we were young, we were told to never get into a car with strangers and never meet people from the internet. Now, we summon people from the internet and get into their cars. You’re right that many of these startups may die, but the spirit of trust has been ingrained in the generation that uses them. We are more willing to meet strangers from Tinder, stay overnight in a strangers home with AirBnB, and buy used products from others online. It’s very interesting to me how these technological innovations are actually helping with interpersonal communication. I’m more willing to talk to strangers I sit next to on airplanes or people in an elevator just because the sharing economy has made me more trusting of strangers. While this may open doors to some dangers, it would also open doors to a new world of hospitality.

  4. Awesome post Faye! The Lyft ad actually popped up last week when I was watching a YouTube video, and I found myself sitting through the entire 7 minute clip, which never happens! I thought it was a relatable ad that captures the emotions and relationships we as consumers experience with our ‘hosts’ in this sharing economy. It amazes me to think how far we’ve come from our parents telling us to not talk to or get in vans with strangers, let alone sleep in their homes. And you’re absolutely right that the reason culture has now deemed these instances acceptable comes down to trust. Rarely do I wonder if I will be put in danger when I call an Uber or stay in an AirBnB room overnight. I’m excited to see what other industries this sharing economy will affect in the future!

  5. Nice post. I have heard some crazy stories from Uber drivers who happen to be invited along to fancy dinners, etc. I really like the idea of the connection offered by Lyft, but sometimes when I’m traveling places I really just want to be left alone because I need to think or get work done.

  6. viquezj · ·

    Great post! The way we meet other people is changing with time and technology will play an important role in the way that we interact with others going forward. Whether it is through the internet when you are playing an online game or in an uber when you are pooling, it is important to keep those transactions personal. I feel like the only concern with those connection is security, which is why Uber and Lyft make a great job doing a background check on their drivers to ensure that the user will remain safe at all times. Before you would only be able to meet people at school or at work, but nowadays with social media and these types of platforms, the possibilities are endless.

  7. Great post! Builds really nicely on the discussion about trust based on reputation vs. trust based on similarity that is the subject of one of the group readings for tonight. I have had some great experiences with Uber/Lyft drivers and some excellent conversations, usually because you meet people who are completely different to you. Personally, I couldn’t imagine building a friendship out of a P2P platform. Having said that, I have made friends with baristas and bartenders in the past, but not immediately.

  8. benrmcarthur · ·

    I think there is a fine balance between creating a friendship and using something like Uber or Lyft as a service. It all depends on what the customer wants at the time. I know part of my solo Uber experience mostly pertain to my rides to and from the airport. I always like to put on a different accent and talk about my life growing up overseas, but I’m never really there to start a friendship. I think the Lyft video does a great job at telling a story that could be behind any driver. I watched the full 7 minutes and enjoyed it, but will probably stick with Uber as my main application for riding.

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