Guild economy, not gig economy

I really hate the glib way media, pundits, and, well, investors, rush to embrace a hip term. Ultimately, depriving it of any real meaning. I love to hate unicorns, for example. Now even investors are acknowledging that the term unicorn as applied to $1B+ companies has become symbolic of a rather skewed way of going about changing the world. Wow, did they really not see that coming?

Of late the hype has turned to the gig economy. The idea is that hip new web apps like Uber and Upwork (probably DogVacay too) are creating a new way to think about work. The ability to spread your time across multiple gigs, none of which provides job stability much less decent benefits, but it’s all riding on way cool technology (yep, Silicon Valley loves them) and therefore gig work is way cool.

I do believe the gig economy is a real phenomenon. I see all indicators being that the big corporate model is going to erode. Evidence is already there in the form of hoarding cash instead of hiring more people. What that tells me is if we don’t change our major systems, like the credit system, we will all head toward a new form of feudalism. it will make the angst of the 99% of today seem quaint.

I launched Descant to go after the problem of small businesses and their owners falling in the cracks in our credit system. I watched with concern as a new wave of venture financing went to startups that swear what these business owners want most is a quickie loan from a soulless distributor of algorithm-supported cash. What big data credit and big data underwriting have in common with Uber and the gig economy is tenuous connections to peers and the impersonal machines behind it all.

History gives us some interesting insights how to head off the pain. it involves empowering people in a new way. That’s where I think the modern coming of guilds comes into play.

Our pilot users suggested some ways this could emerge. One, a sole proprietor of a IT hosting service for small businesses in his community, wants to create a credit circle. Others suggested business-to-business groups who would develop their own peer-based lending model. That would be in contrast to how peer-to-peer lending has evolved as you can see in here.

I would love to hear more suggestions about how to drive and sustain a guild economy. I don’t think we need to wait for gigs to be the dominant way of making money. As I heard in our pilots, business owners already see the potential. Let me know what you think!


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