Robin Chase

Author of Peers Inc.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 21, 2015

Discussion

Robin Chase@rmchase
Hi all! I'm co-founder of Zipcar (and former CEO) as well as Veniam (a vehicle network communications company). I recently published Peers Inc: How People and Platforms are inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism. My mind, my heart, and my time are completely focused on how we take control of the huge economic and environmental transition we are in the midst of to build the world we want. Let's talk business models, new economy, income distribution, and sustainability.
Ronald Widha@ronaldwidha
What do you make of the argument that Jarion Lanier made; how big corporations, "the siren servers" as he calls it, is reaping the profit from value generated by the crowd? I.e. Google is making money from user clicks, Amazon is making money from user reviews, Soundcloud is making money from users creativity. None of them are passing the profit across. What do you think the solution is?
Barbara Gee@barbgee · Self
@ronaldwidha nice question
Robin Chase@rmchase
@ronaldwidha This is a great question. Here is how I'm currently thinking about it, but I welcome other people's ideas. I see three areas of value creation on these platforms: 1. The platform. These are really hard to build, really expensive, very high risk. The founders and investors deserve a significant return on this. 2. The Peers. Each time they contribute to the platform, they are clearly getting value in return. Otherwise they wouldn't participate. You don't put your house on Airbnb, or drive for Lyft, or put your music on Soundcloud, or use Facebook, it you didn't think you were getting adequate value. 3. The Network. Network effects are significant. These are created by the aggregation of all the peers. Today, the platform buildings are getting all of the value. That does seem unfair to me. How do we put this value back into the hands of the peers? How do we decide what fraction of the total value this is worth? Tricky.
Jack du Rose@jackdurose · Founder, Colony.io
@rmchase Some platforms, such as Reveal.me are solving this problem by distributing a cryptocurrency to users proportionate to the value of their activity within the platform. When they eventually start allowing advertising in the app, the advertisers must pay for the ads using Reveal coin, which they must buy from the users.
Robin Chase@rmchase
@rmchase Might we imagine giving equity to the Peers? how would that work when the numbers of participants are so large? Maybe we tax platforms at a different rate, or maybe employment platforms at a different rate? I continue to mull over how to share the productivity gains appropriately.
Robin Chase@rmchase
@jackdurose Yes! I like and am intrigued by this idea. La'Zooz was also doing this and the blockchain enables it. I write a bit about this in Chapter 9 about democratizing wealth. With Bitcoin, people are paid and incentivized to publish the general ledger. Incentives are given based on an algorithm. Matan Fields of La'Zooz pointed out to me that we can reward lots of other kinds of effort with similar algorithmic formulas. ie If you market the product, you get n tokens for a certain number of views. Basically, we give incentives for more than just the final transactions -- we also incentive the building blocks of those transactions.
Robin Chase@rmchase
@rmchase Do you think Peers Inc help move us away from ever increasing economic growth that depends on ever increasing consumption of fossil fuels and other resources? Can we somehow move to increasing economic growth without increased resource consumption?
Hong@quan · Mechanic, Karmic Bikes
@rmchase You're famous for Zipcar, but I've seen you tweet about bikes too. What are your thoughts about bikes as transportation and bike-sharing's potential to re-imagine cities and how people live/work in the future?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@quan These days I am in love with bikes! If we had better road infrastructure (like they do in Holland), I think a significant part of our urban trips would happily be done by bikes. Today, 75% of all trips are people driving alone, and in cities, the majority of trips are very short distance. Bikes are cheaper, take up less space to drive and to park, and of course have a lot of health and environmental benefits. I admit that I used to think bikesharing was dumb. When people would say "why don't you do Zipbikes?" I'd think, why? they are so cheap to own. But, having lived in Paris for two years, I came to value and love Velib. I often went one-way. The bikes are so much faster to lock than your own. You don't have to worry about maintaining it, or carrying it upstairs to your apartment. And it was cheap too! All that said, the future for cities will definitely be multi-modal. People are diverse; our life stages require lots of options. I think we will see more walking, more bikes, but also more kinds of microvehicles -- single occupancy vehicles of all kinds, as well as transit and autonomous cars.
Hong@quan · Mechanic, Karmic Bikes
@rmchase Thanks for the reply! Good to get some confirmation that I'm not completely nuts. I love the concept of "microvehicles" and sharing them opens up so many possibilities for use.
AJ@alanaut24 · Engitrepresigner
@rmchase This was extremely insightful! Thanks for sharing!
Robin Chase@rmchase
@quan Yes! The trick is to get a pilot going in a city with some nice safe infrastructure. I'm yearning to get this done someplace. Take one car lane and divide it in two. The accepted vehicles: less than three feet wide, slower than 30kph, and likely less than some weight.
Hong@quan · Mechanic, Karmic Bikes
@rmchase The closest thing we've had in the States was a multi-modal experiment in Downtown Las Vegas. Tony Hsieh from Zappos funded a transportation startup to redesign the downtown core, but it didn't work out. I'd love to try it again.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey Robin :) Q. What's the one question people in the space should be asking that they're not asking?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Robin will have to go in a few minutes, everyone please give a HUGE thanks to Robin for taking the time to chat with us! As a reminder, definitely check out her book, Peers Inc: http://www.amazon.com/Peers-Inc-...
Robin Chase@rmchase
@eriktorenberg Thanks! That was fun. Thanks everyone for some great questions.
Barbara Gee@barbgee · Self
@rmchase What is your hope of what will happen as a result of your book's success?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@barbgee I wrote the book to bring attention to, and to explain the new organizational paradigm that is transforming how we build businesses, work, and shape economies. This new structure -- Peers Inc -- is amoral and without value. It has enormous powers: exponential growth, exponential learning, local adaption -- that can be used to address some pressing problems. Climate change and income equality. Peers Inc also disrupts the current power balance between people and platforms. This can play out to deliver more power to individuals, but might also result in much less power (if the platforms become monopolies). We have to be proactive in how we want the Peers Inc economy to end up.
Sequoia@seq23 · Managing Partner, Spry Ventures
@rmchase What do you make of the student loan debt crisis? Any thoughts on how to solve this one?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@seq23 I haven't been following it closely. I do hate the fact that we require post tax dollars to pay for higher education, which is an incredible societal good. I also see higher education changing rapidly. MOOCs -- an example of Peers Inc -- is going to change how we teach and likely when and how we learn. And hopefully, the access and cost of higher education.
Robin Chase@rmchase
I wrote the book to bring attention to, and to explain the new organizational paradigm that is transforming how we build businesses, work, and shape economies. This new structure -- Peers Inc -- is amoral and without value. It has enormous powers: exponential growth, exponential learning, local adaption -- that can be used to address some pressing problems. Climate change and income equality.
Idea Farmer@ideafarmerchirp · Idea Farmer,
@rmchase Thank you for Peers Inc. I'm halfway and am applying the concepts to my business plan. I too am a Mom and wake up with an urgent need to get things to change in time. Would you consider giving your input at some point in the early stages?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@ideafarmerchirp Glad you are enjoying the book. Honestly, my schedule is crazy. I am literally on the road 300 days a year, and am on three companies boards. I don't like doing things poorly so I really can't add more to my plate. That said, I can honestly say that now I've written this book, my best, deep, and thorough advice is found within. It really gives you much more information than sitting down with me. I've heard from many people that they have found Chapter 6 "how to build your own Peers Inc" really valuable and their favorite chapter. Have you gotten that far? Oh! Good luck!
Astrid Scholz@ajscholz · Instigator at Large / Sphaera Solutions
@ideafarmerchirp if there is enough interest, maybe those of us actively working on #PeersInc businesses working for the benefit of people and planet could form a mutual support group on Slack or such
Idea Farmer@ideafarmerchirp · Idea Farmer,
@ajscholz I would love to do that. Hit a bad cell area.ay not be able to write more now
Idea Farmer@ideafarmerchirp · Idea Farmer,
@rmchase Thank you and yes I have read chapter 6 2x. L
Robin Chase@rmchase
Any more q's?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@rmchase What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have around transportation?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@eriktorenberg Two important misconceptions: 1) that the status quo is great! 2) that car drivers/owners are paying their fair share. Right now in cities around the world there is a battle going on about how we allocate the public space we call streets. Car owners think they've paid their taxes and deserve free on-street parking. Pedestrians and cyclists want more space allocated to them. The reality is that car owners aren't paying anything like the full costs. Onstreet parking is heavily subsidized (think how much it costs to park in a garage for a month!). All kinds of air pollution resulting in asthma, heart problems, and global warming are unpaid for. Congestion! That too is a real cost on lots of other people that drivers don't pay for. All of this leads to my status quo comment. Many people fear change but they don't recognize that the status quo is ugly. The average household spends 18% of their budget on car travel. If you use a car to get to work, that means the first two hours of your day are just paying off the cost of getting you to/from work. Car dominance also locks out people who are young, old, or can't drive. We really need to build much more diversity into our transportation networks so that we can fulfill the needs of all people in all life stages. Transportation = opportunity. When you've got transport wrong, you minimize everyone's opportunity.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@rmchase You want people to read your book and walk away with ______
Barbara Gee@barbgee · Self
What are you favorite Peers, Inc- like businesses today?
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
Can you tell us when you knew you had to write this book?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@russfrushtick I've been wanting to write it for years. Really. For two years running, writing this book topped my New Year's Resolution. January 2014 I finally had enough with my delay. I needed to prioritize it. I'm glad I did. I feel like Peers Inc, which describes what is happening in tech and employment sectors, is incredibly timely. It is also well timed to for the increasingly important need to address climate and income disparity.
nataliefoster@nataliefoster
Hi Robin, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the future of work as it relates to Peers Inc-style organizations. Our members at Peers.org often talk about the flexibility of the work they're doing, but are concerned about the insecurity of the work -- they're basically working outside the social safety net. What are your thoughts on how we might support flexibility and stability in the Peers Inc style work?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@nataliefoster This new way of working on platforms gives people some important upsides: flexibility; the ability to quickly uncover and follow their passions; as well as deliver hyperlocal and customized products and services. We have spent the last 150 years of industrialization tying worker benefits, social safety nets, and workforce protections to full-time work. Today, people are doing lots of ad hoc, opt in, freelance work. I see a couple of important new things we need to do: 1. decouple social safety nets, benefits, and regulations from full-time employment 2. consider a Basic Citizen's Income (plus health and child care). As our economies become more and more productive, I do think we will see fewer and fewer jobs. When I wrote Peers Inc, I surprised myself by these recommendations. But the trends are pretty clear. We absolutely need #1 and #2. Over the last few months I've see so much discussion, commentary, and conferences circle around these points. Exciting times. The movement to address these issues has begun.
Korbin H@k1ix · Engineering @ Product Hunt / AngelList
@rmchase What's NOT in the book that you wanted to put in but for whatever reason couldn't?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@k1ix My next book (which I am not actually writing, but in my mind) would definitely talk about the power and potential for the Block Chain. If this sounds surprising, go read the blogs on Ethereum or Usv.com to read about some really intriguing potential. Don Tapscott is actually right this moment writing a book on this topic. Exciting potential for the democratization of platform building is just around the corner.
Astrid Scholz@ajscholz · Instigator at Large / Sphaera Solutions
@rmchase Here is a post my friend Steve Wright recently wrote on some of that potential: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/b...
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@rmchase wow- that is exciting. i'll check this out. which companies are you most excited about in the space?
Amit Jain@gravicle · iOS Engineer
@rmchase Hey Robin! What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@gravicle I'm laughing! What do I do? My children and husband will tell you that I have a laptop on my lap almost all the time, and am never home. But more seriously: stick with your values; work hard; respect others; be tenacious with ideas that are important to you; try to problem-solving and learn continuously. And most importantly, pay attention to the world around you in an honest fashion. I think of this as intellectual honestly -- whatever you are doing and believing, be open to criticism and constantly evaluate it and improve.
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
@rmchase What has surprised you the most about how the book has been received?
Robin Chase@rmchase
@jsneedles This is going to sound self-serving, but it is honestly true: I've been most surprised by how much people have really loved reading the book. I knew the ideas were important, and I know I give a good talk, but writing a book is a whole other skill and effort. The rave reviews honestly took me by surprise. And I'm happy! because these ideas are so very important. Change is happening very fast and the Peers Inc future can deliver us a fantastic sustainable equitable economy, or could deliver us one that is much more unequal (a frightening possibility) that doesn't address climate change (and so it is game over for all of us).
Brent Summers@brentsum · Founder, Code-Free Startup
Hi Robin, thanks for doing this. What are you most excited about with online education?