Frerk-Malte Feller and Mike Butcher at Le Web 2013 (Official LeWeb photos, by @Kmeron, licensed under Creative Commons)
"I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the LeWeb conference in London last week, a prestigious event set up by Loic Le Meur with many influential thought leaders of the Internet sector," Zipcar's European president Frerk-Malte Feller tells me. Read on to find out what inspired him at the event, and how Zipcar fits in to this brave new post-consumerist world.

Zipcar European President Frerk-Malte Feller"This year’s theme was the ‘sharing economy’, one I've long been passionate about and which drives the way Zipcar works. The enthusiasm and innovation at the conference was inspiring – reminding me once more why we come to work every day at Zipcar.
 
One of the most enjoyable sessions was hearing Joe Gebbia, one of the founders of Airbnb share his story.  The idea of offering three air beds in their living room in San Francisco with breakfast as an accommodation option was born out of necessity, if not despair.  Joe and Brian, roommates, had just received a rent increase of 25% from the landlord, coinciding with the moment when both had given up their jobs as designers to become entrepreneurs.  Not great timing!  When they found out that all SF hotel rooms were sold out given a large design conference, they had an idea.  And soon enough – on day six after seeing the opportunity, and having already launched a basic website, they had three guys turn up at their flat staying over on the air beds.  
 
Whilst all good fun, and fuelling the myth that we enjoy from start ups, the intriguing thing to me was that over the months and years following the ‘launch’, Airbnb’s model was reinvented two or three times until it finally took off and became the $1bn company that we know today.  There is a big learning here:  innovation is hard, and you are unlikely to get it right the first time.  Keep trying, evolve your model – particularly the customer experience and the value that you generate for your customers – until it works.  We strive to do this at Zipcar continuously.
 
Larry Harvey, Founder, Burning Man and Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb  (Official LeWeb photos, by @Kmeron, licensed under Creative Commons)Another hugely inspirational moment was Loic’s conversation with Larry Harvey, one of the ‘founding fathers’ behind Burning Man, a famous experiential event in the Nevada desert, where 70,000 people come together once a year to form a community, celebrate art, radical self-expression, and party.  I haven’t been – but I was intrigued by Larry’s philosophy behind the event, talking about how being in the middle of the desert, giving up all material things that define our lives for a week yields a very different perspective on life.  It made me think about how there is a huge shift in society towards post-materialistic values, as fewer people in Europe and North America define themselves on what they have, but rather on who they are.
 
At Zipcar, we come to work every day to give you freedom.  The freedom that comes from mobility, provided through vehicles, allowing you to go where you want, when you want.  We let you do this without owning a car, and all the hassle that comes with it, saving you £3,000 per year (comparing the costs of Zipcar with the average cost of owning a vehicle yourself).  Increasingly, businesses and entrepreneurs also use us as a more flexible, convenient, and cheaper transport option to implement new ideas and services.  Mark White for example set up his business in London with £20 and a Zipcar:  Check out his market delivery service at www.markymarket.com.
 
Granted, we don’t get everything right.  Across Europe, we have about 2,000 cars accessible 24x7 to thousands of our members – you.  Things happen – cars break down, tires get damaged, one of you can run late and impact the next member.  We are obsessed about providing a fantastic member experience for you every day.  We want you to rely on us, and not feel the need to own a car, but rather play your part in improving our cities.  Every Zipcar takes 15 formerly privately owned vehicles off the road.  Our vision is to have more people use car clubs vs people who have cars.  Imagine all the trees we can plant in the parking spaces we no longer need!  This is why we come to work everyday at Zipcar.
 
Thank you for being a part of Zipcar!"
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