Founder of car sharing service Zipcar speaks to YSU about start-ups

A Zipcar is parked at a lot, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in New York. Avis is buying Zipcar for $491.2 million, expanding its offerings from traditional car rentals to car sharing services. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The woman who took car renting to the next level spent an hour with 75 Youngstown State business students on Monday, talking start-ups and the future of business.

Robin Chase — Wellesley, MIT, and Harvard-educated — founded the car sharing company Zipcar in 1999.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is exactly what the internet is made for, sharing a very specific resource among lots of people easily,” she said.

You sign up for Zipcar, reserve a car online, show up with a swipe card, and return it when done. Cars can be rented by the day or hour.

Hourly rentals had never been done so on day one, Chase had to guess on a rate.

“My daily rate was just way, way, way too low. My daily rate was about 20 percent lower than it should be,” she said.

So she raised the rate and eventually drove Zipcar to a point that in 2013, she sold it to Avis Budget Group for $500 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Chase also talked about the future — specifically citing the hotel industry — where the largest company, Intercontinental Hotels Group, took 65 years to build 650,000 rooms — a feat Airbnb accomplished in just four years.

“Oh my god, what happened? How can you disrupt an entire industry, industrial sector, in four years?”

Part of Chase’s presentation included five tips on running a business:

  • You can do the impossible
  • You never know where the money will come from
  • Everyone is your free consultant
  • There’s good luck and there’s bad luck
  • Be a learning organization

Nicole Davis, a YSU student from Boardman, loved Chase’s presentation.

“I thought it was really inspirational. A different take on something we’re learning here in school.”

Marissa Bland, of Liberty, said a start-up is something she would consider.

“I’m traditionally more of a public health background and so I transferred into business, getting my master’s in business administration. So I think definitely looking into it.”

Dr. Betty Jo Licata, dean of the Williamson College of Business, said the same speech would not have been given ten years ago.