Zipcar Founder: The Era Of Industrial Capitalism Is Over

PARIS—Workers of the world unite, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase suggested here Saturday. You have nothing to lose but your excess capacity.
"The shared future of our world is no longer industrial capitalism," she declared before hundreds of delegates and activists and reporters at the Paris Climate Conference. "Today, because the internet exists, we create the most value by sharing assets."
The most salient example she offered involves not her famous car-sharing company, but a couple of famous bed-sharing companies:
Not the Intercontinental Hotels Group, owner of Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and other brands, which spent 65 years building 645,000 rooms in 100 countries, but its new competitors: AirBnB, which had 650,000 rooms in its fourth year, and Couchsurfing, which had 2.5 million rooms in its ninth year.
"The world has transformed," Chase said. "An entirely new paradigm is happening, that in four years you can be as big as the largest hotel chain in the world."
The transformation was enabled by excess capacity, which Chase defines as capacity that exists, that's already paid for, but that has untapped value.
For example, the French startup BlaBlaCar harnessed the excess capacity of people driving across Europe with empty seats in their cars by giving them a platform to share rides. Six years after its founding, BlaBlaCar has 20 million members. It moves four million people a month—the equivalent of 10,000 high-speed trains or 10,000 747s.
"They did not lay a track, they did not buy a rail car, they did not buy a plane."
In this way, said Chase, excess capacity seems to defy the laws of physics.
"If I had said in 2007 that I want to build the largest hotel chain in the world—in four years I want to build 650,000 rooms—everyone would have said it is physically impossible to do," she said.
The internet made it physically possible, and the new paradigm is confronting the old paradigm on its home turf—economics.
"Shared assets always create more value than propriety ones," Chase said, by using assets more efficiently and by extracting more value out of them.
So why was Chase talking about this at a climate-change conference? Not just because shared assets increase energy efficiency:
"When I think about how we need to address climate change, we need to have this structure," she said. We need to crowdsource solutions, learn exponentially, harness global ingenuity.

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