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Future 50 entrepreneur is hailed by ministers keen to learn more about the ‘sharing economy’

18:34 12 February 2014's new offices in Duke Street, Norwich. Behind the drab exterior of the building lies a funky and stimulating workspace, the centre piece being a playful slide between floors. Founder Ali Clabburn using the slide. Photo: Steve Adams

The boss of Future50 firm Liftshare is being feted in government as an example of a new approach to doing business.

Ali Clabburn is being hailed as an exempler of the ‘sharing economy’ enterprises driven as much by values as the bottom line.

The entreprenuer has already been invited to Downing Street to share his thoughts with ministers on the notion, which has also been hailed by Forbes Magazine as one of its top tips for 2014.

Based on a ‘collaborative’ approach to doing business, businesses such as Liftshare are often underpinned by a strong ethos such as helping the environment.

Mr Clabburn cited the accommodation website Airbnb as one of his favourite ‘sharing’ businesses as well as ParkatmyHouse, while he is also a fan of the social network site Streetlife, a partnership between and EDP publisher Archant.

He said: “We are probably the pioneers of the sharing economy in the UK. Over the last four or five years, it has become a lot more mainstream. The sharing economy is growing very fast. There are lots of disruptive models. Airbnb is being attacked by the hotel industry which feels it doesn’t meet the same health and safety regulations

“The UK government is excited by the potential of the sharing economy to create jobs. They see what’s happening elsewhere and want to make sure they nurture this sector rather than fight against it.

“They want the UK to be the most welcoming economy for sharing.

Liftshare, which won the EDP Business Awards outstanding IT initiative category, helps more than 100,000 people share cars to work each day. Meanwhile, the firm’s innovative myPTP venture, a software system which allows workers to create their own travel plans is also going from strength to strength.

However, he admitted that the firm had called a halt to its Carloco car rental venture, an online site where people could rent out their own cars, after encountering several barriers to entry around the age of the cars which could be included and insurance.

But he insisted he was not downhearted by the decision.

“I have never failed at anything, but I have learned lots of lessons,” he said. “There were lots of barriers to entry - we were limited on the age of the cars and the insurance. For me the most exciting thing was it reminded me about being a start up, and how you have to learn lessons very fast every day.”

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