Robin Chase

 

Robin Chase is founder and CEO of Buzzcar, a service that brings together car owners and drivers in a carsharing marketplace. Buzzcar.com empowers individuals to take control of their mobility, without looking to governments or big businesses for solutions. Robin is also founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest carsharing company in the world, and GoLoco, an online ridesharing community.

She is on the Board of the World Resources Institute, the National Advisory Council for Innovation & Entrepreneurship for the US Department of Commerce, and the OECD’s International Transport Forum Advisory Board. She also served on the Intelligent Transportations Systems Program Advisory Committee for the US Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Governor’s Transportation Transition Working Group, and Boston Mayor’s Wireless Task Force. Robin lectures widely, has been frequently featured in the major media, and has received many awards in the areas of innovation, design, and environment, including Time 100 Most Influential People, Fast Company Fast 50 Innovators, and BusinessWeek Top 10 Designers. Robin graduated from Wellesley College and MIT's Sloan School of Management, and was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow.

 

 

My eldest daughter jokes that my world lens is predictable: everything comes back to climate change, making better use of resources (sharing!), and innovation as an engine to our future prosperity. Oh, and mesh networking which brings all of these ideas together.

Find and make use of excess capacity.

The opportunity here is boundless, really. And at every level of the economy. We all want to get more out of what we own or have already invested in, or, conversely, to pay only for what we use. Buzzcar, takes the second most expensive asset individuals own (second to their house), that sits idle about 22 out of every 24 hours, and enables it to be shared with neighbors and friends resulting in a much more efficient use of those cars. GoLoco takes on the excess capacity found in car trips, where most trips have 3 empty seats available. I think a lot about the inefficient use of single-purposes devices (transponders in cars used to pay tolls used only a few seconds every month),  communications networks,  road space, parking lots, office space, personal connections, good ideas, idle hours. I've written on the opportunities to be found in cooperative capitalism, the anatomy of sharing, and opportunities to be had in multi-purposing road user fee infrastructure. There is also a nice 20 minute podcast on this topic as well.

Enable and unleash the information economy.

We are in the midst of a radio wave revolution - exactly how we as a nation become wireless will have an enormous impact on our future. Will information access (and transmission) be everywhere, available to everyone (and thing), at very low cost, and open to unfettered participation by all? Will it invite innovation and therefore become the most powerful tool we have for solving our nation (and world)'s most pressing problems?  We are all - individuals, companies, governments - spending and about to spend enormous amounts of money on wireless infrastructure. We need to do it in a way that makes the most efficient use of every device and every network by using open standards, internet protocols, opening up excess network capacity for networks built with taxpayer dollars, and of course, developing an open source robust secure peer-to-peer network. You can read more about these ideas and the required approach for infrastructure spending here.

Marketing Is Everything.

No matter what you are selling, it has got to be put in a way that appeals to that person (company, government)'s self interest. Getting the brand absolutely right was one of the keys to Zipcar's success. We were financially smart, cool, hip, urban, fun. If you live in the city, who doesn't want to be like that? Ditto for GoLoco's approach to ridesharing: save money, spend time with friends, accrue carbon reduction brownie points! (this is not your 1950s carpooling to work). These marketing stories need to get rewritten for each stakeholder because their self interest is different; each "self" deserves a different story.

At the end of the day,

I spend my life building the world I want to live in:  high integrity, where we care about sources and consequences of our lifestyle, where individuals and companies thrive in a mutually beneficial and delightfully efficient system, where opportunities to participate and engage abound.

Things I didn't mention above that I work on often:  the future of transportation; location privacy and how to preserve it; the need to reduce CO2 emissions now and in the next few years because technology, R&D, and revamping hard assets (cars, transportation infrastructure, housing, urban planning, electrical sources and grids) won't produce significant reductions in the necessary timeframe.