The popular car-sharing startup Lyft, part of the exploding ride-share market that’s also dominated by Uber and SideCar, recently finished a round of funding that totaled $60 million. The company leverages smartphones to provide alternatives to traditional forms of public transportation. Lyft is another example of the peer-to-peer economy, where people interact over the internet to exchange goods and services with the common goal of getting things done. Other, non-transportation related examples are Airbnb for lodging and TaskRabbit for everyday chores. Companies are picking up on this trend, with Pepsi using TaskRabbit to promote its soda by offering free bottles of Pepsi in exchange for undertaking people’s daily chores. Products like these attack structural inefficiencies within existing markets, and leverage new technology to undercut the problems at hand. Today, millions drove to work with empty seats in their cars; Lyft’s goal is to provide a pain-free, efficient method to fill them.
500 Startups is at it again with their fifth annual Demo Day, where 32 new startups show what they’ve done with four months and $250,000 of initial funding from 500 Startups’ VC fund. This year’s class includes a mixed bag of companies including coupon services for consumers, information gathering for realtors, a handful of apps for iOS and Android, as well as buying clubs for wine, tea, and other goods. It’s still early for all of these companies, but some look extremely promising, and this certainly won’t be the last we hear from them.