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Airbnb co-funds $100k prize for "disruptive" SA startups

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Global online accommodation giant Airbnb and the State Government will co-fund a $100,000 prize for new entrepreneurs to launch “disruptive” ideas in the sharing economy.

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Airbnb will contribute $50,000 to the $100,000 prize pool for the Share challenge, which is aimed at helping start-ups, digital developers and “innovators in the field of business and technology” to launch new business ideas.

Applicants are being asked to address how to “create value or address a pressing social problem, by using our existing idle or wasted resources (e.g. assets, products/goods, information/data, expertise, space, etc)”.

The “sharing economy” involves transactions, usually over online platforms, where access to goods and services is “shared” (ridesharing companies are a common example).

Premier Jay Weatherill said the Government was working to accommodate a “new type of competition” from the sharing economy.

“We know that South Australia has a great entrepreneurial spirit, and we are very pleased to join with Airbnb so we can find the next big thing in the sharing economy,” he said in a statement.

“Airbnb have been very excited about how South Australia has embraced disruptive new industries, and we have worked constructively with them to ensure our state has the right balance when it comes to this new type of competition.

“Because of our size and connectedness, South Australia is the perfect place to test these types of ideas and the impact they can make.”

Early last year, the Government announced it would legalise ridesharing but has since prosecuted hundreds of Uber drivers, using undercover investigators, for collecting fares without official accreditation.

But Airbnb Country Manager, Australia and New Zealand, Sam McDonagh, praised the State Government for its efforts to boost the sharing economy.

“South Australia is an exciting growth area for Airbnb, and we’re thrilled to see the Government’s commitment to bring new business and ideas to the state in collaboration with the sharing economy,” said McDonagh.

“The South Australian Government has set the gold standard for fair and progressive rules that allow everyday Australians to open their homes to travellers from around the world.

“We’re proud of the great work by the Weatherill Government, and hope other state governments take similar steps to encourage and introduce such clarity around home sharing.”

When asked about its motivation for funding the prize and whether the company feared it could fund a new competitor in its market, McDonagh told InDaily through a spokesperson that: “South Australia is an exciting growth area for Airbnb and innovators generally, and we’re thrilled to see the Government’s commitment to bring new business and ideas to the state in collaboration with the sharing economy.”

“We’re very pleased to partner with the Weatherill Government in its support of new ideas, future innovators and entrepreneurs, and to to participate in this initiative.”

Airbnb is an online platform that connects homeowners with travellers looking for temporary accommodation. It recently announced it would expand its platform to include longer-term rentals.

Entries for the Share competition close July 13. Applications are being accepted here.

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