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Valley Voice Be there or be shared

Airbnb, Uber and Tinder allow us to share our room, our car and our lover. But there are reasons to be skeptic: Only the companies get rich. And sometimes you find fungus in the coffee machine.
20.01.2015 - 14:22 Uhr Kommentieren
Britta Weddeling, Korrespondentin des Handelsblatts im Silicon Valley, berichtet über neue Trends und den digitalen Zeitgeist im Tal der Nerds.
Die Stimme aus dem Valley

Britta Weddeling, Korrespondentin des Handelsblatts im Silicon Valley, berichtet über neue Trends und den digitalen Zeitgeist im Tal der Nerds.

Coincidentally, I live in the apartment where Airbnb was founded. CEO Brian Chesky and CPO Joe Gebbia still live upstairs. Although their online-marketplace grew to a billion-dollar company, my neighbors decided to stay in their old domicile on Rausch Street in San Francisco. Sometimes I can hear them talking. Sometimes they are noisy. But I never say anything. Maybe I’ll write a column about it one day.

Once, I unintentionally took Brian Chesky’s Uber. A car was waiting in front of our door and I hopped in. The driver turned around and the look on his face said he was expecting someone different. I don’t look Brian-ish, and even less like his size-zero girlfriend. It was that moment I discovered the room-sharing guy gets around with the car-sharing guy’s company.

That makes sense. Silicon Valley is all about sharing lately. You share your story with a reporter, your private life on social networks, your room (Airbnb), your car (Uber, Lyft) and your lover (Tinder). Journalists even discovered this new trend and called it "sharing economy". People pin their hopes on Airbnb or Uber, as if they could save the world from energy shortages, climate change and herpes.

Kurz und schmerzhaft: alle Kolumnen


I don’t believe in "sharing" for two reasons. First of all, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick doesn't seem to be the man who wants to build a better future, as the "sharing"-experts always say. Although he has changed his bad attitude for PR reasons, it’s rather the opposite. Uber’s machismo – big cars, hot chicks – that is soo ’90s. Uber discharges much of the entrepreneurial risk on its "sharers" too. People can of course increase their income with small businesses. But only the companies themselves get really rich. It’s okay to earn billions of dollar. But don’t mistake making money for saving the world.

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    Secondly, hotels are wonderfully anonymous. I love it. There’s no nippes, like at the home of my former Airbnb hosts, a retired teacher. Her guestroom was wallpapered with class photos dating back to the ’70s. At night, hundreds of first-graders stared down at me. Another guy wanted to "share" his tight underwear. And my last host must have been an environmental activist. A rare fungus was growing in her coffee maker, the size of my right hand.

    Someday I have to confess to Brian Chesky and my Airbnb-friends that I like staying in a hotel while traveling. I don’t think that means I’ll have to move out of my apartment though. My roommates would just say what they always say: "Britta, you are so fucking German." They are probably right. When German parents talk to their offspring about sharing, the kids know they’ll lose their chocolate to their sister or brother. Some older Germans would just think of East Germany.

    The thing is: I don’t want to try on other people’s lives. I don't want to belong anywhere. I want to have packaged soap and a toothbrush tumbler, wrapped in plastic. Like Lady Gaga says: "We are plastic, but we still have fun."

    Britta Weddeling is Handelsblatt's correspondent in Silicon Valley covering the internet economy, latest trends and small curiosities in the valley of the nerds.

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