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Sharing economy: 'Greater' Depression in the making?

Monday, 19 Aug 2013 | 8:38 AM ET
Westend61 | Getty Images

News on the CNBC Disruptor 50 companies upsetting the status quo in the markets:

Fear the sharing economy

Beware Airbnb, Rent the Runway, Getaround and the like: The companies of the sharing economy and their consumers may cause an economic collapse greater than the Great Depression. At least, in the opinion of market research firm ConvergEx, it's a real threat.

"Americans of every demographic are flocking to services like Airbnb … for one overwhelming reason: Renting and sharing allow us to live the life we want without spending beyond our means," ConvergEx strategists wrote in a note to clients.

"Renting and sharing could lead to lower home sales (and, subsequently lower home values and net worths), as well as lower auto and retail sales. … The ripple effects could also be catastrophic. The crisis-sparked renting and sharing economy could have an effect similar to that of the Depression, in which the consumer psyche is morphed to constantly imagine a worst-case scenario."

Aereo's path to profitability: Closer than you think?

Aereo won't reveal how many users it has, but CEO Chet Kanojia recently told a conference that the streaming television company isn't that far from profitability.

Does the path to profitability for the thorn in the side of the TV broadcasters require 1 million users? Five million? Kanojia said that would all be great, but he told attendees at the Startup Grind conference in New York, that Aereo would be profitable with hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

Makerbot's model walks the 3-D runway

MakerBot is set to put on sale next week its Digitizer, a 3-D scanning machine.

"It's the easiest, fastest way for anyone to create 3D models," the company said in a release. "We optimized the whole process to work perfectly with MakerBot's Replicator Desktop 3D printers."

Scanned objects can be turned into digital design files in minutes without any special skills required. The company has not yet released a price for the gadget.

Elon Musk's present and future

Elon Musk has been all over the news last week for his latest crazy idea, the Hyperloop high speed (800 mph) transportation system that could take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angles in 30 minutes.

The Hyperloop has its fans, and its fair share of critics.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, Musk's SpaceX was continuing its "humdrum" work of pushing forward the future of private space transportation.

SpaceX's reusable, vertical landing rocket, Grasshopper, completed a new test flight: launching straight up about 800 feet, then traveling over 300 feet laterally, before returning to its original position and ultimately, landing. SpaceX plans to use Grasshopper technology on rockets that are already taking cargo into space and near the International Space Station.

SpaceX also won a launch contract from Canada's MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), for satellites to be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2018, which are part of Canada's RADARSAT Constellation Mission. It's SpaceX's second launch agreement with MDA: The CASSIOPE satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket will launch later this year.

Pinterest in space

Everybody is "pinning", and that includes astronauts. Space.com had a profile last week of a space travel topic a little more "consumer friendly" than the Hyperloop theory and Grasshopper rocket vertical flight success.

Since launching into space in May, astronaut Karen Nyberg has been "pinning" away on Pinterest from the International Space Station, documenting her months-long space voyage. Nyberg is also an active interstellar tweeter.

"I've been using Pinterest for a couple of years and absolutely love it because of my other hobbies," Nyberg said before launching into space in May.

Crowdsourcing Quirky summer gadgets
Quirky CEO and founder Ben Kaufman explains how his manufacturing company helps businesses fund the invention process and demonstrates several of this season's top gadgets.

And in news of interest to the CNBC Disruptor 50 companies:

Peering into peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lenders are in crosshairs of regulators. A recent spate of headlines has heaped some negativity on the businesses of companies like Lending Club—noting that Lending Club works with a bank in Utah, one of the only states to not limit interest rates.

It's nothing new—Lending Club has run into regulators in the past few years, and is still going strong, but the negativity seems to be trending again.

This week, the focus was from Ohio state regulators, who went after SoMoLend, a Cincinnati-based start-up. The Ohio Division of Securities filed allegations in June in an attempt to shut SoMoLend down, but they were first reported last week by the Cincinnati Enquirer's website Cincinnati.com. By mid-week, SoMoLend's CEO Candace Klein had resigned, saying the focus on her and her efforts as a lobbyist on behalf of crowdfunding were distracting the company from its mission of increasing lending to small businesses. Ohio opposed the JOBS Act passed by Congress, and for which Klein has been a vocal supporter. The state's regulators allege the company has made misleading financial statements and lacks required licenses. The company said it "remains focused on its mission of increasing access to capital for small businesses."

Andreesen Horowitz's ad-free version of Twitter

App.net, the social platform created as an alternative to ad-driven consumer social networks, has hit the one-year mark, and just announced that it has raised $2.5 million in new funding from its main venture capital backer, Andreesen Horowitz.

Castlight's new competition

Personal financial site NerdWallet is getting into the health care cost comparison tool business, a health care IT niche that has attracted a lot of attention from venture capitalists. The most heavily funded player is Castlight Health.

NerdWallet is getting in amid the transition to the Affordable Care Act provisions.

"Amidst this confusing period of change, NerdWallet Health is the patient's companion to finding higher value health care," the company said in launching its first product, a hospital comparison tool.

The company says that patients can use the tool to compare health cost and quality care for the top 170 procedures in the U.S. in over 3,000 hospitals.

By Eric Rosenbaum, CNBC.com

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