“Just being neighborly”: Innovative sharing services have Midwestern roots

Ah, the sharing economy. From renting a privately owned car to sharing a bike with the entire city, collaborative consumption is “disrupting settled marketplaces” across the country.

While a high percentage get their start in Silicon Valley, the underlying “neighborly” principles of the approach are sometimes credited to good old Midwestern values. Given that, it makes sense that there are plenty of peer-to-peer sharing services with Midwestern roots. Here are a few of those surprising innovations.

Clothes-sharing in Pittsburgh

Created by co-workers at the University of Pittsburgh, during the 2013 Startup Weekend, Share Closet is one of the few – and perhaps the only – American-born apps that allows users to truly share – rather than sell or trade – clothes, shoes and accessories.

Chore-sharing in Kansas City

Zaarly, a peer-to-peer marketplace for providing home services, from cleaning the house to fixing a leaky pipe, was launched by Kansas City entrepreneur Bo Fishback in 2011. Now in Kansas City and San Francisco, the company counts Ashton Kutcher as an investor, and was named a “pioneer of the ‘share economy'” by Forbes.

Kansas City’s Bo Fishback created the peer-to-peer marketplace, Zaarly. | Photo courtesy of Big Omaha/Malone & Company, via Flickr.

Bike-sharing in Tulsa

NYC’s Citi Bike program? Nope, it wasn’t the first modern bike-sharing program in the U.S. Launched in 2007, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Tulsa Townies was the first multi-station and fully automated rental and sharing system. Sponsored by the local Saint Francis Health System, the intent was to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle in the community.

Car-renting in Cincinnati

While FlightCar – a car-sharing service that allows travelers to rent their car out rather than pay to leave it in airport parking – is now offered in L.A., San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, the company got its start in Cincinnati, with the help of the non-profit accelerator, The Brandery.

As part of the 2012 class, Rujul Zaparde and Kevin Petrovic were the youngest co-founders to be accepted into the four-month training program. And this September, the duo became the youngest entrepreneurs in the country to ever raise $20 million in venture capital.

Experts in various fields share their knowledge via the Indianapolis-based site 12ish. | Photo courtesy of 12ish.

Advice-sharing in Indy

A new Indianapolis-based information-sharing website, 12ish, allows people to “share knowledge at a deeper level than social media affords.” Maybe you need advice on buying a house or breaking into an acting career, or maybe you just need a shoulder to cry on: User-reviewed experts offer affordable 12-minute private sessions.

Hitchhiking in Kansas

The lack of transit in rural Lawrence, Kansas inspired a resident to create CarmaHop. The smartphone app, launching in the small town this month, aims not just to connect potential drivers – often solo commuters – and hitchhikers, but to also offer a level of accountability that eases anxiety for both.

As the world gets smaller, will these “neighborly” values not seem so “Midwest”? We hope so.

Oklahoma’s pretty-in-pink Tulsa Townies: the country’s first multi-station and fully automated bike-sharing system. | Cover photo courtesy of Mike Petrucci, via Flickr.


Read more from our Midwest features contributor, Amy Hirt-Howell.