Friday, October 22, 2010

"The Mesh" as Reviewed by Ethan Beute

For this book review project, I wanted to use David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing and PR,” but it was claimed first by another student. I wanted to use “Inbound Marketing” by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the guys at Hubspot, but it was also taken. I moved on to “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the guys at 37signals, but it proved to be more general business than specific ecommerce. I did write that one up anyway - you can my glowing review of "Rework" right here.

So, I was at a loss … until I read a blog post from Seth Godin propping up a new, “big idea” book (in which he’s name checked as the pioneer of “permission marketing”).

Lisa Gansky’s “The Mesh: Why The Future Of Business Is Sharing” is absolutely both “brand new” and “big idea.” It’s also “right now.” The Mesh is a book that could not have been written 5 years ago, though much of the concept’s foundation was well underway at that time. Likewise, it’s a book at which we could look back 5 years from now and appreciate how insightful and telling her vision was at the time.

Aside from having to read about businesses, strategies and tactics as being “meshy” or “very meshy,” I found the book a complete pleasure to read. Aside from having to accept a few arguments and ideas without direct connection to the presumably-backing references listed at the end (no direct citations), I found Gansky’s vision smart, compelling and forward looking.

So what is “The Mesh?” In short, think Netflix versus Blockbuster. Though both are based on the concept of buy once and sell many times (renting out the same DVD over and over again to different customers), Netflix is an information company. Layers upon layers of data are collected and processed to make it easier and easier for Netflix customers to find, watch and review movies and TV shows. Meanwhile, Blockbuster’s in bankruptcy protection.

Gansky’s preferred example is Zipcar, an information company that happens to share cars (as opposed to making and/or selling cars). It's exemplary because it touches on all the main characteristics of Mesh companies:
  • Core offering that's shared
  • Reliance on web, mobile and social networks
  • Frequent interactions with each customer
  • Layers and layers of data collected about each car, customer, transaction, trip, etc.
  • Data analysis to produce offers that are more and more personal, timely and relevant
  • Partnerships with other companies to provide more value and collect more data
Once you sign up for Zipcar, you're given a Zipcard. You can use a web or mobile app to find cars near you and reserve one for an hour, an afternoon, a couple days or more. Your Zipcard or mobile phone unlocks the car you've reserved; the keys are waiting inside. The cars are typically fun models and each is given a name. For those who either are on vacation or live in large cities, this kind of easy access to high quality cars exactly when and where you need them is more convenient and less expensive than owning the same car outright.

Other companies highlighted include Prosper (peer-to-peer lending), thredUp (clothes), Crushpad (wine making), Kickstarter (project funding), Roomorama (apartments), several other car-sharing services and many more. Again, Zipcar and Netflix seem to exemplify best her full vision.

Included in this fast, fun read:

  • Characteristics of Mesh companies
  • Load of example, plus a half dozen or so "Case Study" breakouts
  • Macro-level enabling factors and driving forces
  • Specific advantages of employing Mesh strategies
  • How and why Mesh strategies threaten traditional models
  • Points to consider for your own Mesh start-up

I highly recommend “The Mesh” for marketers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists and anyone else who’s into what’s happening right now and what’s around the corner.


The Mesh Homepage and Business Directory:

My Video Review of The Mesh:

My Non-Book-Review Blog Post on The Mesh:

Article in The Economist:

Article at

Zipcar Videos:

Additional Videos:


  1. Hello Ethan, Your video was very entertaining and creative. Also, this was a great book - out of the box. Coming from Europe, the "sharing" approach is well underway over there in terms of car pooling etc.

  2. Hello Ethan, I forgot to say that I liked your long resource/link list at the end of your review to find more information. I tried to use that as a best practice for my posting :-)

  3. Re: Europe - yes, she mentioned it in the interview I lifted and throughout the book. My suspicion - largely density-driven enabled by cultural acceptance.

    Re: linking - great! My hope was that a couple/few people would be interested in the concept, but may not want to commit to the book. Links provide extra flavor - or - extra inspiration to commit to reading the book.

  4. Thanks for the great review, this book wouldn't be something that I would normally pick up, but because of your review, I'm really considering it. I am fixated on the whole sharing concepts that she refers to, and your review just tipped the iceberg. I was discussing your review with one of my friends and she said that she could see this working easily for her daughters generation (mid 20's), since she grew up with everything she ever wanted, but in todays society, won't be able to afford all of those things and by meshing with others will still be able to have those benefits. Interesting theory, and even better, great review. Thanks!

  5. Sure - I'll bring it in on Thursday for you. Quick read.

  6. Yours was my favorite presentation. I totally agree with the author about where society is heading, and you represented her ideas well I think. The internet connects us all, and enables so much more information and product sharing. The idea of being connected with society through technology inevitably connects us through products, or it soon will.

  7. Thanks so much, Rachel. I really wanted a "big idea" concept to explore and present and The Mesh served perfectly.

    To your "connects us through products" - I really liked the idea of community building in physical space and with physical goods and services. To this point, I feel like all the community building - aside from an occasional tweet-up - has been restricted to similar thoughts, views, hobbies, etc solely online.

  8. Enjoyed your presentation, especially your "interview" with Lisa. I grew up in the country and we shared many things with our neighbors, equipment mainly, but it is how we all got our work done. This idea has been around for many years, but she is taking it to the next level, a level I wonder will ever be truly accepted. People still love ownership and that is difficult to change.

  9. I'm not to sure I agree with the total idea of the book and that author looked a little crazy in the video, but you're editing skills were great!

    Sharing movies on Netflix works, but sharing a car with random strangers would freak me out to a certain extent. It's like flying on Southwest...if I'm in section B or C I get concerned, I like assigned seating. If I'm a little late I'm late to the plane but not my seat. I don't want to have to rush to get the car before someone takes my 'seat' before my hot date on Friday night. And I'm not even going to get into sharing a room with someone...yikes!