Buzzcar’s Robin Chase Drops by Springboard’s Opening Night in New York

10/23/13Follow @jpruth

When Robin Chase comes to town, expect lessons in influence and driving change in executive leadership.

Chase—the co-founder of Zipcar and founder of Buzzcar—spoke last night at a reception in New York ahead of Wednesday’s Springboard Annual Forum. Addressing the women-led media and tech startups that graduated from the Springboard Enterprises accelerator, Chase offered a bit of sage advice about establishing credibility as a leader.

Chase said that building up Zipcar, the short-term rental service that became an early leader in what’s known as the sharing or collaborative economy, paved the way for her to have a voice in the transportation industry.

“It wasn’t that I said I’m an expert; I did a lot of work to make that transition happen,” she said.

Appropriately enough, Chase started that work at this very spot. She and Zipcar, which was acquired in March by Avis Budget Group, are alumni of Springboard’s accelerator.

The program, established in 2000, has graduated 537 women entrepreneurs in life science, digital media, enterprise software, and other areas. Wednesday’s forum will give 10 more companies from the Springboard tech accelerator a chance to pitch at the SUNY Global Center.

Growing as a leader takes more than scaling up a company, especially when it comes to improving the world as a whole, Chase said, pointing to the example of tackling climate change.

“Companies, entrepreneurs, and individuals need to exercise our ‘community muscle,’” she said, to develop the reflex to “do the right thing instead of diving for guns, ammo, and stockpiles of stuff in the basement.”

And how should entrepreneurs contribute? Chase said it would take their new ideas to help steer the economy away from carbon fuels and abate global warming. “The worst projections, if we keep to business as usual, by 2060 we’ll be plus 11 degrees Fahrenheit,” she said. “It’s very uncertain that humans can exist at plus 11 degrees.”

Chase is also working on a book about what she calls the “peers incorporated” organizational structure, which she said leverages individuals’ talents to work alongside companies. “Think of YouTube, eBay, Skype, or Airbnb,” she said. “These platforms take a lot of investment and that’s what institutions are really good at. The [individual] peers co-invest, bringing their assets and strengths.”

Such collaboration, she said, can nurture resilience, redundancy, and innovation. “Companies should think about what you do best and how you can tap outside resources to do the localization, standardization, and customization,” she said.

Freeing up companies this way to be more efficient, Chase said, can lead to swift growth. “Major industries are being disrupted by this,” she said. “It is totally game-changing. If you aren’t playing this way, you are going to strike out.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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