This is an excerpt from Empower: How to Co-Create the Future. The full 200+ page book is available by donation!

“It is more convenient, more economical, and more…rational…to access something rather than own it full time”

-Robin Chase

excerpt from book

David Passiak: ZipCar changed behavior and also inspired new types of entrepreneurship. You not only pioneered the trust-based transactions, but the ease and accessibility of ZipCars at scale made it the possible for people to not need to own a car. ZipCar in turn inspired other entrepreneurs to found similar companies, because if you don’t need to own a car, maybe you don’t need to own other things.

Robin Chase: Start with the basic question: why do we own things? A large part of the reason is to make sure that it’s always going to be there when I need it. We used to think that I can’t lend out my car or I can’t have it part-time because it won’t be there when I need it. In economic terms, we call this a rivalrous good. Zipcar showed that by creating pools of cars, this rivalrous thing suddenly became non-rivalrous. I could share it and still have it at the same time.

It’s not on-demand in the sense that I clap my hands and it’s there. The shift is because it is more convenient and cheaper. In the case of Zipcar, I think people always would have liked to pay for a car when they needed it instead of having to own it and maintain it. We demonstrated, “Huh. You know what? I can have it only when I need it.” That’s a different sentiment than saying, “When I say so, I’ve got to have it.” I never felt that sense of privilege and entitlement from customers. It was more convenient, more obvious, more economical.

David Passiak: That’s interesting. It makes you wonder what other hidden assumptions we have about ownership and attachments to things that are breaking down. Access in some contexts has the same connotations that you associate with ownership, this entitlement and sense that this is mine. I wonder how we get away from this binary thinking of mine/not mine.

ROBIN CHASE is a transportation entrepreneur. She is co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest carsharing company in the world; Buzzcar, a peer-to-peer carsharing service in France (now merged with Drivy); and GoLoco, an online ride-sharing community. She is also co-founder of Veniam, a vehicle communications company building the networking fabric for the Internet of Moving Things.

She is on the Boards of Veniam, the World Resources Institute, and Tucows. She also served on the board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the National Advisory Council for Innovation & Entrepreneurship for the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Intelligent Transportations Systems Program Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the OECD’s International Transport Forum Advisory Board, 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, was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow, and received an honorary Doctorate of Design from the Illinois Institute of Technology.