would like to highlight FlexWeek
), a pioneer in the global peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace with the introduction of a unique platform that allows timeshare owners to discover, book and offer unused vacation time directly to the public and other timeshare owners. This approach eliminates the need for timeshare owners to use costly trading platforms such as Interval International or RCI, while potentially reducing unused timeshare inventory.
In the company’s news:
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Sharing at All, shows that FlexWeek, Inc.’s (OTC: FXWK) innovative online platform for travelshare rentals is an idea whose time has come. The FlexWeek platform ‘allows timeshare owners to discover, book and offer unused vacation time (travelshares) directly to the public and other timeshare owners.’ As the title of the HBR piece suggests, the label ‘sharing economy’ is misleading. The authors, two well-respected professors of marketing, go on to point out that the essential characteristic of the peer-to-peer (P2P) business model is access. That is an important insight and it’s one that drives FlexWeek’s strategy.
The rise of the peer-to-peer approach has given rise to a new range of businesses. An illuminating story (http://dtn.fm/0nLZ4) in Currency Fair, entitled The Peer-To-Peer Marketplace Revolution: 50+ Companies That Are Changing The World, names Craigslist, Uber, Zipcar, Kickstarter, Lending Club, and, of course, AirBnB. Peer-to-peer is a term borrowed from computer architecture vocabulary that was meant, initially, to indicate a contrast to centrally-controlled systems. Consequently, the early excitement with P2P models was their devolution of power, which was thought to translate into equality and freedom for the participating peers. Since the French Revolution, however, fraternity is never far away from liberty and equality. So early P2P endeavors with a strong flavor of communality and social interaction were an expected sine qua non.
Eckhardt and Bardhi take issue with this accepted rationale of the success of P2P nexus, doubting whether participants on such platforms are seeking brotherhood and social interaction. They rather believe companies that ‘emphasize convenience and price over the ability to foster connections will have a competitive advantage’. To illustrate this, they compare the two different approaches taken by Uber and Lyft. They endorse the privately-held Uber’s strategy that ‘positions itself squarely around its pricing, reliability, and convenience (that) is encapsulated in their tagline, “Better, faster and cheaper than a taxi.”’ However, they say a contributing reason that almost identical rival Lyft has not had Uber-rate growth is that its sales propositions, such as “We’re your friend with a car” and “Greet your driver with a fist bump,” are directed at our gregarious natures. Peer-to-peer business may involve some degree of winning friends, but when we call a cab, it’s not because we want to be chums with the cabbie.
The two professors confess dismay with AirBnB’s recent re-branding, which highlights ‘people, places, love and community’, saying “The reason why most consumers use AirBnB is the value they can get for their money.” A peer-to-peer commerce model is superior when it provides ‘convenient and cost-effective access to valued resources, flexibility, and freedom from the financial, social, and emotional obligations embedded in ownership and sharing’.
A Bloomberg piece (http://dtn.fm/dOXv6) that appears to have ingested Eckhardt and Bardhi’s main argument touts Uber as the poster child for the access economy with an estimated valuation ‘north of $50 billion’. The Bloomberg story also highlights AirBnB. It points out that the privately-held AirBnB is valued at around $25 billion and carries more than 1.5 million listings for accommodation in 34,000 cities around the world. FlexWeek aims to do for timeshares what AirBnB has done for the online marketplace that enables individuals to rent their rooms, apartments or houses to short-term guests.
FlexWeek’s P2P website (www.FlexWeek.com) and mobile application is similar to AirBNB’s $25 billion approach to the travel industry. (A December 2015 filing with the SEC in regard to funding of $1.5 billion values AirBnB at $25.5 billion) FlexWeek is the first and only P2P marketplace exclusive to fractional vacation ownerships. Its platform differs from the existing costly model under which timeshare weeks must be ‘banked’ with a trading company such as Interval International or RCI. Instead, the booking fees are charged to the renter of the travelshare or vacation time. FlexWeek is a pioneer in this Peer-to-Peer Travelshare market, and the FlexWeek engine is currently undergoing v2 Beta testing. FlexWeek also offers premium members a service through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Choice Journeys, which provides access to discounted timeshare inventory in addition to cruise and luxury vacation homes in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
FlexWeek’s prospects look good. Based on data in the recent State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry: United States Study 2015 Edition and other information supplied by the American Resort Development Association, the potential size of the re-sale and rental market is about $1.6 billion. AirBnb’s success shows that helping the world to travel on holiday is one road to success. That’s a road that FlexWeek, with its novel travelshare concept, is likely to pave anew.
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