Time is the scarcest resource that we have, but it’s something everyone has access to it — whether you’re Bill Gates or a person living on the street.
This basic equality of time is the foundation for the online time banking platform TimeRepublik, which provides an alternative to the monetary economy. Anyone with an Internet connection and some type of skill can create an account with TimeRepublik, posting what talents she can offer or search for services that she needs. By giving time, participants fatten their digital “time wallet” with hours that can be cashed in later for something they need. Many exchanges cross international boundaries and most take place online, using tools like Skype or Google Hangout. When users exchange services in the same city, they often opt to meet face to face.
TimeRepublik co-founders Gabriele Donati and Karim Varini were childhood friends in their home country of Switzerland and spent a lot of time as teenagers and young adults at a remote mountain cabin rented by Donati’s parents. The two recognized that living without modern conveniences (there was no running water or electricity) led them to connect with people on a deeper level. Many long conversations led them to the conclusion that something was amiss in contemporary society — how value is assigned. Seeing that value really resides in human relationships, the two slowly formed an idea that eventually led to the creation of TimeRepublik.
Donati and Varini launched TimeRepublik in October 2014. Unlike some other time banking platforms, it does not evaluate the worth of various skills. An hour is an hour — whether it is from a graphic designer fulfilling a logo request or a dog walker helping a busy mom on a hectic morning.
“Everybody’s asking, you know, ‘what about the difference of value between the musician and the lawyer or the musician and the doctor,’” says Donati. “They tend to forget that what we’re trying to do is to try to scale trust more than trying to give value to things.”
Since TimeRepublik’s launch more than 30,000 people from 110 countries have shared approximately 100,000 talents. The company’s goal? To eventually create a secondary system of exchange that equally values everyone’s time, regardless of specific expertise.
“Everybody knows that trust cannot be bought,” says Donati. “Once you have established trust in a relation[ship], that’s when you can start changing things.”