Investing in You: The new entrepreneurship: Monetize what you own

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Carvertise pays drivers to advertise brands on their cars. Founder Mac Nagaswami (center right) and business partner Greg Star (center left). "There are thousands of cars out there driving thousands of miles," Nagaswami says.

How can you "monetize" the assets in your life: the idle car in the driveway, the unworn fashions, and, of course, the spare room?

Imagine that you wake up one Saturday morning, roll out of bed, and step over guests still sleeping in the living room, whom you're hosting through Airbnb or Craigslist.

Out of your closet, you grab a suit or a dress to rent out through a fashion-swap Internet site. Then you hop into your car to drive around all weekend as a Lyft or Uber driver.

There's a word for this phenomenon: uberization, as in the "Uberization of the economy," or making money off all the stuff you've accumulated.

"Companies like Uber and Lyft have given rise to an increasingly popular method of revenue generation," says Daniel Young, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware in Newark and at Wilmington University in New Castle, Del.

"The average millionaire has seven different sources of income. Young people are starting to think creatively about how to stack up these sources of revenue," Young says.

"As an educator, I love this way of thinking. Now, my students' path to financial freedom might be waking up in the morning, taking a selfie with Code is the New Black to get paid from affiliates based on what they are wearing. Then they pick up a passenger using Uber and get to class having already made over $100."

Adds Young: "Twenty years ago, this concept may have been met with a laugh. Now, as social norms relax with the growth and influence of millennials, it seems as though these opportunities will be considered much more earnestly by savvy entrepreneurs."

 

Drive that brand . . .

We asked the founders of Carvertise, which pays drivers to advertise brands on their cars, how it works. It just so happens that the founder, Mac Nagaswami, is a student of Young's.

Nagaswami founded Carvertise in 2012. He was a finance major at the University of Delaware but went part time to run the start-up.

"There are thousands of cars out there driving thousands of miles. How it started was based on a little market research," Nagaswami says. His team surveyed 1,000 people and found that three out of 10 were willing to carry advertisements on their vehicles.

Carvertise (Carvertise.com) has expanded so much that it even has its own traffic economist.

"We have 100 car drivers on the road today, just everyday commuters driving from point A to point B. It's very simple. We get car drivers into our database. They fill out our questionnaire, what times, what roads, what miles they drive, and then prospect a brand."

Nagaswami's business partner, Greg Star, initially wrapped his car with an ad for client United Way. Then Shop Rite wanted to get its message seen in Glasgow, Del.

"We found car drivers to sign up and get a high amount of exposure in that area. Our job is locking in a client and getting cars on the road, vetting the drivers and making the correct match," he says. Drivers earn about $100 a month.

 

. . . or let others drive

Everywhere, Americans are monetizing their vehicles.

FlightCar.com is a car-sharing company that operates at airports. You get free airport parking in exchange for renting your car out to other travelers, instead of leaving it sitting unused at the airport.

Through RelayRides.com, you rent your car out of your own driveway. Expand your market (and your wallet) by offering delivery of your car to nearby airports or other locations.

 

Back at the spare room

 

You can rent out your place for less than two weeks a year - tax-free.

We've already spotted at least 85 Craigslist apartment-rental ads for Sept. 22 through 27, when Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Philadelphia.

Here's one from Rittenhouse Square: "One bedroom, couch, and blow-up mattress available for 4-5 people. A 16-20 minute walk to Fairmount and the pope's visit . . . requesting $5,000."

From a homeowner on the Main Line, near St. Joseph's University: "5 bedroom, 31/2 bath available for the week of the pope's visit to Philadelphia September 2015 . . . can accommodate 15 cars, up to 20 for dinner." All for $12,000.

Not bad for a week - and you don't have to pay federal taxes, according to Blue Bell CPA David Zalles.

If you rent your personal residence for fewer than 15 days a year, the income from those two weeks of leasing is free of taxes to Uncle Sam. But state and local taxes may apply.

To get the tax break, the house you rent out must be your primary residence, or a second home or vacation property near the special event. If you also rent it out at other times of the year, check with a tax planner.

P.S.: Your town may require a permit to rent for special events.

 


earvedlund@phillynews.com

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund