Innovation That Matters

What Can We Learn Now From Past Sharing Economy Innovations?

Lessons From the Innovation Archive

In this series, we’re unearthing ideas from our extensive archive of over 10,000 innovations that are relevant to the times we find ourselves in today.

Whilst the response to the coronavirus pandemic is already spurring new and innovative ideas and solutions that may shape sectors for years to come, we can also look to the past for lessons in agility. With this in mind, Springwise is resurfacing ideas from our extensive innovation archive.

Below are innovations we spotted several years ago that captured the essence of the sharing economy, tapping into social exchange, efficient use of resources and altruism.


Originally published: 22nd August 2014

If those nostalgic for the pre-digital age are to be believed, neighbours used to simply knock on a door to ask to borrow something, but now they’re too engrossed in their smartphone screen to even know who lives next door. To solve this problem and renew a sharing community spirit, Pumpipumpe is a Switzerland-based project that is encouraging residents to place stickers on their mailbox to denote the goods they’re willing to lend to their neighbours.

The idea was initially formed to enable those with bike pumps to indicate to fellow cyclists that they could knock and use theirs in the case of a flat tyre — hence the name Pumpipumpe. The scheme has since expanded into a system allow neighbours to advertise any object available to borrow. Those who want to take part can simply order a pack of stickers from the project’s website. Each sticker is a small blue square that features illustrations including a bike pump, lawn mower, kitchen scale, children’s toys, and even internet access and fancy dress costumes. 

The idea is that homeowners place the stickers for the items they have on their mailbox so passersby can know if they’re good to knock on the door. The stickers are free to anyone in Switzerland or Germany, with a EUR 4 fee for shipping internationally. While the idea aims to recreate the offline networks of old, the team is working on an interactive map of all the neighbourhoods participating in the Pumpipumpe scheme.


Originally Published: 14th March 2016

Peerby from Amsterdam is a high-tech version of that same idea and enables people to borrow expensive items from their neighbours, rather than splashing out on new products.

Based on the knowledge that 80 per cent of items are used less than once a month, Peerby is an app that helps people engage with the sharing economy and live a little greener and cheaper. To begin, lenders download the app and list all items they would be happy to lend out. It can be anything from a lawnmower to a disco ball. 

Then borrowers can search the database for a particular item they need or browse categories for nearby offers. When they find what they are looking for they can negotiate with the owner within the app and arrange to meet and borrow the item. Borrowers can also create posts with requests for items that they haven’t been able to find.


Originally Published: 3rd June 2016

Sustainable living is getting easier as more and more platforms are helping people make the most of their possessions, and we recently saw a startup helping local communities share large, expensive and infrequently used items. Getmii is an app that enables users to broadcast requests to the 1,000 nearest people.

With a phone number and location information, the app connects users with their local community, helping them to share goods and services and cater to real-time, short-term needs. Users first register with their Facebook profile. Then, they post requests to the Need Feed, and can see what others around them are looking for. The app’s chat enables users to arrange payment, pick-up or barter — a particularly important feature in building the Getmii community. Ping-pong balls, a study partner and first date restaurant recommendations are three of the most common requests on Getmii.

The two main guidelines for using the Getmii app are to be positive and helpful. The team say that part of the trust-base for sharing economies is using real identities online, which is why they decided to ask users to link their profile with Facebook. Future iterations of the app are likely to feature in-app points or incentive features.

Explore More Innovations: Sharing Economy | Coronavirus Response