The Collaborative Economy Can Help Save the Planet

By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News

Robin-ChaseThe world is getting hotter.
In fact, it’s supposed to rise 11 degrees fahrenheit over land by the 2060s if we don’t meet our goals to reduce carbon impact, said Robin Chase, founder of Buzzcar, a peer-to-peer car sharing service and co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, a car sharing service.
That means we must act now to institute drastic change to save our planet, Chase said during the afternoon keynote at South by Southwest Eco in Austin.
“I’m really, really focused on getting these jobs done,” she said.
Global warming is caused by Carbon Dioxide and air pollution trapped in the atmosphere, which acts like a blanket warming the earth when the sun heats it up. The biggest contributor to global warming is the burning of fossil fuels.
To solve the problem, Chase proposes Peers Incorporated, a partnership to drive the collaborative and shareable global economy.
“It’s a partnership between autonomous individuals and bigger institutions,” she said.
In 2000, when Chase launched Zipcar she saw an unfilled need and excess capacity in the marketplace.
On average, it costs $8,000 annually to own a car, but owners only drive them five percent of the time, Chase said.
The problem was people could only rent cars in 24 hour bundles.
“You couldn’t buy it in the way you actually consume it,” Chase said. “There was a real economic opportunity here.”
To address the problem, Chase created a platform for participation and treated Zipcar’s customers as its peer collaborators. They were not consumers, but co-creators.
“You wouldn’t rent a car for an hour if it was going to take you 20 minutes to get one,” Chase said. “Thanks to the Internet we could make that transaction cost really simple. We built this platform that allowed you to rent a car in 60 seconds.”
To create Zipcar, they would ask people for help all the time.
“We talked to them intimately about our desire to build a great company,” Chase said.
logoThe big shift in the Peers Incorporated method is to look at customers as collaborators and producers. Some of today’s most successful tech companies relied on this method to scale their platforms including Skype, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, eBay and Flickr.
Chase discussed the power of the shareable economy to scale quickly.
For example, she said it took the largest global hotel company, InterContinental Hotel Group, 60 years to amass 645,000 hotel rooms in 4,400 hotels in 100 countries. And Hilton, the second largest, took 93 years to build 3,800 hotels with 610,000 rooms in 88 countries.
But it only took four years, for Airbnb, a peer-to-peer room rental service, to amass 650,000 rooms in 192 countries.
And Couchsurfing, which is nine years old, has 2.5 million rooms in 207 countries.
“It is the incredible pace of growth that is possible,” Chase said. “This new way of doing business is incredibly disruptive. And it provides some good opportunities for us.”
imgres-2The old industrialization model required companies to build a business as big as possible. It involved industrial strength, large investments, multi-year efforts, integration and aggregation of many parts, deep sector knowledge, diverse technical expertise, standard contracts and standardization, consistency, brand promise and globalization.
The new model relies on individual strength focusing on people, small non-government organizations and companies, small investments, short term sporadic efforts, delivery of small services, local knowledge, specific unique expertise offering customization, specialization, creativity, and personal social networks (trusted individuals.)
“With this model, we can capitalize on what individuals do best,” Chase said. “It’s this collaboration that I’m calling Peers Incorporated.”
It’s a platform for participation, she said.
“The individuals bring this incredible creativity,” Chase said. “Each side has to give a little that makes it interesting for the other side to play. Excess capacity is just permeating the whole thing. Platforms deliver economies that scale and high growth – that is what a platform is made to do.”
In addition to Airbnb, other examples include Etsy, a marketplace for selling things made by individuals, Fiverr, which has grown from 2010 to 2013 to offer 2.5 million gigs, or things people will do for $5. And even though the smartphone is only five years old, people have created more than 1.5 billion apps for Apple devices and Android devices.
The Peers Incorporated model lets people tap into “those tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people outside of the room,” Chase said.
The Peers Incorporated model brings diversity, innovation, resilience and redundancy, Chase said.
Under that model, the economics of things completely change, she said.
imgres-3Her latest venture is Buzzcar, a peer-to-peer car sharing company in France that leverages the excess capacity of vehicle owners to rent out their cars to others. Buzzcar has a network of 7,000 cars across France, Chase said.
“I think of this excess capacity as a path toward abundance,” she said.
PeersIncorporated.com just launched based on case studies but this kind of disruption is happening in every single sector of the economy, Chase said.
For example, Global Forest Watch provides satellite images to let people find out what is happening in forests right now and shows deforestation happening in real time.
“It’s giving the power of the corporation to individuals,” Chase said.
Massive satellites and photographic evidence given to the tribe leader of a region in the Amazon in Brazil enables him to fight corporations to take back his land, Chase said.
“For me this is an example of a powerful platform for participation,” she said.
To end, she quoted Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist: “We are on track for such rapid and intense change, we might as well steer toward the world we want to see.”
Chase said there’s three things to do every day to build a sustainable world we want to live in:

  • Exploit excess capacity
  • Build Community Muscle – the future ahead is so hard – this is something we really have to do.
  • Focus on Platforms for Participation – scale and grow as fast as possible.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report says that the world will use up its carbon budget in 30 years, Chase said.
“We should feel this incredible urgency,” she said.

For more on Robin Chase’s ideas, watch her Ted Talk from last year.

Comments

  1. Surely can save the planet!

    Adriano Santos, Apaixonado por e profissional na área de Comunicação Visual, São Paulo – SP

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