The Most Important Currency of the 21st Century

I just had the pleasure of watching a fascinating online lecture about how the most important currency of the 21st Century is likely to be not liquidity or credit-worthiness, but reputation. The lecturer was a brilliant young author and business consultant named Rachel Botsman; she was giving a TED Talk entitled “The Currency of the New Economy is Trust?” I can’t recommend it highly enough.

In the late 1990s, I had an idea for a new business called OnMoney. It was going to be a single online destination where people could maintain all their financial information in one place. In other words, a terrifically convenient service that would empower consumers. I thought it was a great idea, but I was wrong. It didn’t work, and Ms. Botsman’s TED Talk gets at the heart of why. Back in the 1990s, no one was going to trust a single financial firm to host all their most sensitive information. But as Ms. Botsman points out, it’s a different story today. Sharing this kind of sensitive financial information online is now commonplace – think of websites like Mint.com. Even more interesting is that through web-based businesses like Airbnb, WhipCar, Spinlister, and DogVacay, we’re sharing possessions that are just as (if not even more) personal: a room in our house, our car or bike, even our pets.

And more than simply creating marketplaces (and markets) where none existed before, the Internet is creating a currency of reputations. As someone who loves free markets, I can tell you that this currency was not created or regulated by a government. Rather, it sprang organically from the free market. In fact, the government’s only role in any of this was to help launch the Internet – that is, to establish the infrastructure that has permitted free enterprise to flourish and, to borrow a phrase Ms. Botsman uses, to create “micro-entrepreneurs.”

Good News from the Windy City

Very exciting news today from DNAinfo.com, our award-winning neighborhood news site that will soon be launching operations in Chicago. As part of its mandate to field the best team of local journalists around, DNAinfo.com Chicago has hired Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mark Konkol, a veteran newspaperman whom one local press critic describes as a genuine “Chicago journalism superstar.” Konkol joins DNAinfo.com’s team of 20 full-time local Chicago reporters – which is more than the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times Metro staffs combined. You can read all about Konkol and DNAinfo.com’s plans for Chicago HERE.