Silicon Valley's Rental Boom

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Lyons

Need to borrow a toilet? Sleep on a stranger's bed? Tech's latest fad is a quick fix for cash-strapped consumers.

Would you allow a stranger come into your house and use your bathroom, for a fee? If your answer is yes, then you'll love Cloo, an announced-but-not-yet-released app for the iPhone that lets you turn your toilet into a "community loo" (get it?) and earn a few bucks by letting people do their dirty business in your home.

If your answer is no, then congratulations--you're just like me. Granted, I'm probably older than Cloo's target demographic--still ... yuck. Cloo sounds like a joke, but Hillary Young, the project leader, insists she and her colleagues are serious. "Unfortunately/fortunately, we truly are this crazy," she writes via email.

Cloo represents an example of the latest tech craze: renting out your belongings to strangers. You can rent out your home (AirBnB, Istopover), spare bedroom (CouchSurfing), a parking spot (ParkingSpots.com), or even your car (Getaround, RelayRides, WhipCar). Not enough? You can rent out yourself, offering to run random errands for people through sites like Zaarly and TaskRabbit.

Call it a sign of the times. "I think the economy has hit every-one pretty hard, so a lot of people are making some choices," says Jessica Scorpio, a cofounder of Getaround, which is based in San Francisco. …