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Geoff Anderson explores what businesses can learn from this new economic model

Traditional ways of doing business are being disrupted in a variety of ways, shaped by changes in technology and the rise of peer communities.

One of these, collaborative consumption – an economic model based on sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting access to products as opposed to ownership – is reinventing not just what people consume, but how they consume it.

Championed by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in their 2010 book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, the concept made Time Magazine’s ten ideas that will change the world in the same year.

From marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist to emerging sectors such as social lending site Zopa and carsharing site Zipcar, collaborative consumption has developed into numerous strands.

The impact of the financial crisis, which has limited lending and investment opportunities, has also fuelled enthusiasm for “peer-to-peer” exchanges, whether it’s space, goods, skills, money or services.

The collaborative approach even extends to consumers helping to develop a product or service in its infancy.

Starting a new company is very daunting, and in the tech space you need to move quickly before something else comes along and takes away your competitive advantage.

PixelPin, a new mobile security business, which I started last year, is using a number of collaborative techniques to move from a standing start a lot quicker than would have been possible if we had adopted traditional business methods.

PixelPin won a place into a business accelerator called Wayra, run by Telefonica, along with 15 other companies last June.

The months here have felt like running a business inside an MBA course, with the significant help and mentoring we are receiving. We now have a series of mentors who have influential positions in their own companies and who are willing to spend their own time helping us in specialities that we do not have in our team.

This collaborative approach works both ways as it gives the mentors and advisers an insight into the start-up world and a chance to use their skills in a completely new environment.

The “tech” jargon of getting a minimal viable product (MVP) to market is all the rage, but we have been able to go one better.

We have found a number of well-known businesses that like innovation and have become part of our testing and development regime.

PixelPin replaces passwords with pictures, which although more secure and user-friendly than passwords, requires users to understand a completely new concept in authentication, or the login process.

These businesses are looking for market differentiators and have put PixelPin in front of their customers from an early stage. Their feedback and professional testing facilities greatly enhanced our product and allowed them to have an input into the look and feel of the product.

This has given PixelPin a great way to develop the user interface in an environment we could not afford.

This collaborative approach has also given us the chance to discuss how businesses would implement PixelPin before we have designed it, massively reducing wasted development time built on the assumptions of customer requirements.

Most businesses like to be innovative, and working with small start-ups is a great way to find innovation. The difficulty for most businesses is dealing with very small companies, but we are proving that it is worth the effort.

Geoff Anderson is co-founder of PixelPin

Illustration: Dave Murray/Dutch Uncle

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