The Zipcar co-founder and serial entrepreneur wants a better social safety net and less ego in today’s sharing economy.
Robin Chase, who co-founded Zipcar in 2000, has since started French car-sharing service Buzzcar, online ridesharing service GoLoco, and vehicular Wi-Fi provider Veniam.
–As told to Scott Gerber
How do you carve up responsibility in a business with new partners?
With my most recent startup, Veniam, we’ve done a lot of adjusting of equity as roles have shifted. We’ve all been honest and ego-less, and really trying to get this company on its path, which is a hard combination. One way to do it might be, can the founders sit down every quarter and say, “We were supposed to earn this amount. Who should have gotten that? How do we divide it this quarter, and how do we divide it next quarter?”
Zipcar helped create the sharing economy. What do you think of the Uber generation of startups?
The reality is, he who finances and makes the platform sets the rules of engagement for everyone underneath. And that’s where there’s strife; the drivers are saying, “Wow, Uber gets to change the rules.”
How serious are the gig economy’s labor problems?
This form of labor is going to happen no matter what. It’s a new way of working; we’ve got to deal with it. I talked to my driver last night, and he adores the flexibility. Like, oh, my god, it’s transformed his life that he can work this way. And it’s kind of a meritocracy: If I’m good at it, I’m going to rise to the top. On the flip side, humans don’t like to do the math; we like to think fast. So am I thinking about my vacation time, sick time, retirement benefits, workmen’s comp? No, that’s not in my calculation. I’m thinking, “Wow, I’ve got this sum of money today. Great.”
So what’s the fix?
We need to move our social safety net so it’s not attached to full-time labor. And, by the way, people are pointing to the sharing economy for this, but Walmart has been doing this for the past 20 years. They’ve been saying, “You’re not full time; you’re a part-time worker.” The incentive and desire of companies to make people outsourced has always been a problem.