About a dozen years ago, I was one of a couple of dozen women in Boston selected to present at one of Springboard's New England Venture Forum. To prepare, we were divided into small discussion groups of four or five people. A mentor who'd been successful in business was assigned to each of us. I can't remember the name of the woman assigned to me but if she happens to see this, she was terrific.
Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, BuzzCar, and now GoLoco, was in my small group, where we each had to give our pitches in a few minutes. As you read the next sentences, remember that the year was 2000 and all of this took place just seconds before the dot-com crash. Everyone in the group had the same reaction to Robin's idea for Zipcar. How did this relate to being a dot-com? Wasn't she talking about a car rental company? Where were the eyeballs in her pitch? Why would anyone be interested? Robin took this all in without any rancor but with slight exasperation, as I recall, because we were all so tunnel-visioned. Couldn't we realize that none of this could happen without technology? That the whole thing was premised on the extraordinary ease that the online management system allowed? That there would be RFID chips in the membership cards? That if we didn't stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, we would, well, we all know the story of why continuing to choke the atmosphere with fossil fuel emissions might not be the smartest move? Technology technology technology coupled with a terrific need linked to addressing the greatest challenge of our time...
By the time Robin gave her presentation to the venture capitalists who showed up on the big day, her proposal was very polished and very clear. To my mind, it was the best presentation of the day, representing a breakthrough idea that was unlike any of the others (among the competitors were an online newsletter service, an online community thingie, and a loyalty program, for example). Robin had fully integrated the feedback, lead with the technology focus of what she was doing, and, I think but am not completely sure, gained investors as a result.
I've been "following" Robin ever since, even before you could click a button to do so. Today's Forbes carries an interview with her with the title of this post: "How Robin Chase Reinvented the Transportation Industry." I agree. But the editor in me would change the title to read: How Robin Chase Is Reinventing the Transportation Industry. I doubt that she's done. Here she is at TED in 2007.