How to successfully position a “social business” on the market

Andreas Amstutz, CEO & Founder of Sharely, shares with you their success story and gives best-practice advices how to position a “social business” on the market.

We started our sharing platform sharely.ch in 2014 and managed to build up a community of several thousands users who is offering several thousands objects now. Of course, we are still a small fish in a sea of famous fellow competitors like airbnb or Uber. But still, we managed to become recognition in Switzerland and were able to attract three private investors which allowed us to develop our sharing platform.

Of course, we also met potential investors saying that we will never succeed. Their argument was: we will grow too slowly and then loose interest in further pursuing our vision. Their point of view has a kernel of truth as peer-to-peer platforms need a lot of time to establish a critical mass and generate earnings. This is due to several reasons. First of all, the supply side is beyond our control, it’s our community uploading the objects. Secondly, object sharing is a hyper-local business, we need up to 500 or 1’000 objects of each item category to be able to provide an attractive offer. A drill in Berne is not relevant to someone living in Zurich.

This makes it all the more critical that a sharing startup (or a social business in general) has a clear vision – and the willingness to master the difficult starting phase and not to lose the motivation. Our vision is very clear: we want people to share more – all the stuff is already available, now it’s time to start sharing! We pursue this goal with all our strength.

How did we manage to convince our investors? They realized that our future path is based on realistic assumptions and that we know how to reach our KPIs.

The fact that you are a social business does not imply that your financials should be vague.

Andreas Amstutz, CEO & Founder, Sharely

We even attracted an investor whose main business is buying and selling objects. Why, indeed, should Sharely be an attractive startup for him? Very simply because he’s also noticing that the consumer behavior is changing, that margins are decreasing and consumers are looking for sustainable and local products. The sales arguments have to be adapted to this change: storytelling, sustainability and meaningfulness are getting more important.

Yes, it’s true, you will find “only” products on Sharely as well, but it’s social consumption. If a Sharely user gets to know another person living in the same street for the last 15 years, it’s not about the high pressure cleaner that was leased. It’s a “story”, emotional, local and connecting.

Social businesses often are suspected of neglecting their economical KPIs. But one thing is for sure: We’ve found investors because we have an attractive business case. Furthermore we can bring it at a new level which is beyond financial numbers – which is needed nowadays: The future brings more sharing, more emotional and “green” consumption. These are all “assets” we can offer as a “social business”.

Think about what your complementary assets could be in a market with changing consumer behaviour. Anyone can reduce costs, but creating “meaning” is becoming crucial. It’s your job as a social business to point out these subjects!