By Jamie Gorski
We heard from Zipcar & Buzzcar founder Robin Chase on her desire to live in a world where people care about sources and consider the consequences of their lifestyle, where individuals and companies thrive in a mutually beneficial and efficient system, and where opportunities to participate abound. In her keynote, Ms. Chase encouraged innovation by working together and making use of excess capacity, and suggested taking typical business models and turning them inside-out – creating businesses that share excess capacity on a platform with participation and shared value.
Ms. Chase used this idea when she envisioned Zipcar, a car sharing service in which cars are shared by the hour or day, instead of being owned. “It’s as easy to rent a Zipcar as it is to get money out of an ATM,” she stated. The proof is in the numbers, with Zipcar boasting 700,000+ users, more than 10,000 cars, and offering numerous environmental benefits.
Bed sharing was another example of an efficient business model. In just four years, Airbnb, an online service that provides a platform for individuals to rent unoccupied living space as short-term lodging for guests, has created more than 250,000 listings in 30,000 cities and 192 countries, and successfully booked more than 10 million nights worldwide. More rooms have been booked on airbnb.com than with the largest hotel chain in the world.
Ms. Chase also noted other companies that have exemplified the innovation and symbiotic model she advocates, including: Couchsurfing, Etsy, Skpe, Fiverr, Flickr, Facebook, and Topcoder.
Harriet Tregoning, director of the DC Office of Planning, moderated the session and asked attendees to offer examples of excess capacity in real estate. Lobbies, amenities with no public access, empty retail and office space, malls, and rooftops were all mentioned. Ms. Chase urged owners of real estate to find alternative uses for these spaces with excess capacity, and suggested they consider allowing more pop-up spaces in huge, vacant retail locations, permit short term retail & commercial leases and allow commercial kitchens to be used by food producers.
Ms. Chase encouraged creating mutually beneficial and efficient businesses, and provided a thought provoking discussion on how her proposed business model can be used in the future, beyond transportation and mobility issues.