14:48
TED@MotorCity

Lisa Gansky: The future of business is the "mesh"

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Lisa Gansky, author of "The Mesh," talks about a future of business that's about sharing all kinds of stuff, either via smart and tech-enabled rental or, more boldly, peer-to-peer. Examples across industries -- from music to cars -- show how close we are to this meshy future.

- Entrepreneur
Lisa Gansky is the author of "The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing," and the instigator behind the Mesh Directory (www.meshing.it). Full bio

I'm speaking to you about what I call the "mesh."
00:15
It's essentially a fundamental shift
00:17
in our relationship with stuff, with the things in our lives.
00:20
And it's starting to look at --
00:23
not always and not for everything --
00:26
but in certain moments of time,
00:28
access to certain kinds of goods and service
00:30
will trump ownership of them.
00:33
And so it's the pursuit of better things,
00:35
easily shared.
00:37
And we come from a long tradition of sharing.
00:39
We've shared transportation.
00:41
We've shared wine and food
00:43
and other sorts of fabulous experiences
00:46
in coffee bars in Amsterdam.
00:49
We've also shared other sorts of entertainment --
00:52
sports arenas, public parks,
00:55
concert halls, libraries,
00:57
universities.
00:59
All these things are share-platforms,
01:01
but sharing ultimately starts and ends
01:03
with what I refer to
01:06
as the "mother of all share-platforms."
01:08
And as I think about the mesh
01:10
and I think about, well, what's driving it,
01:12
how come it's happening now,
01:14
I think there's a number of vectors
01:16
that I want to give you as background.
01:18
One is the recession --
01:20
that the recession has caused us
01:22
to rethink our relationship
01:24
with the things in our lives relative to the value --
01:26
so starting to align the value
01:28
with the true cost.
01:30
Secondly, population growth
01:32
and density into cities.
01:35
More people, smaller spaces,
01:37
less stuff.
01:39
Climate change:
01:41
we're trying to reduce the stress
01:43
in our personal lives and in our communities
01:45
and on the planet.
01:47
Also, there's been this recent distrust
01:49
of big brands, global big brands,
01:51
in a bunch of different industries,
01:54
and that's created an opening.
01:56
Research is showing here, in the States,
01:58
and in Canada and Western Europe,
02:00
that most of us are much more open
02:02
to local companies,
02:04
or brands that maybe we haven't heard of.
02:06
Whereas before, we went with the big brands
02:09
that we were sure we trusted.
02:11
And last is that
02:13
we're more connected now to more people on the planet
02:15
than ever before --
02:18
except for if you're sitting next to someone.
02:20
(Laughter)
02:22
The other thing that's worth considering
02:24
is that we've made a huge investment
02:26
over decades and decades,
02:29
and tens of billions of dollars
02:31
have gone into this investment
02:33
that now is our inheritance.
02:35
It's a physical infrastructure
02:37
that allows us to get from point A to point B
02:39
and move things that way.
02:41
It's also -- Web and mobile
02:43
allow us to be connected
02:45
and create all kinds of platforms and systems,
02:47
and the investment of those technologies
02:50
and that infrastructure
02:52
is really our inheritance.
02:54
It allows us to engage
02:56
in really new and interesting ways.
02:58
And so for me, a mesh company, the "classic" mesh company,
03:00
brings together these three things:
03:03
our ability to connect to each other --
03:05
most of us are walking around with these mobile devices
03:07
that are GPS-enabled and Web-enabled --
03:09
allows us to find each other
03:12
and find things in time and space.
03:14
And third is that physical things
03:16
are readable on a map --
03:18
so restaurants, a variety of venues,
03:20
but also with GPS and other technology
03:23
like RFID
03:25
and it continues to expand beyond that,
03:27
we can also track things that are moving,
03:29
like a car, a taxicab, a transit system,
03:31
a box that's moving through time and space.
03:34
And so that sets up
03:36
for making access to get goods and services
03:38
more convenient and less costly in many cases
03:41
than owning them.
03:43
For example, I want to use Zipcar.
03:45
How many people here have experienced
03:47
car-sharing or bike-sharing?
03:49
Wow, that's great. Okay, thank you.
03:52
Basically Zipcar
03:54
is the largest car-sharing company in the world.
03:56
They did not invent car-sharing.
03:59
Car-sharing was actually invented in Europe.
04:01
One of the founders went to Switzerland,
04:03
saw it implemented someplace,
04:05
said, "Wow, that looks really cool.
04:07
I think we can do that in Cambridge,"
04:09
brought it to Cambridge
04:11
and they started -- two women --
04:13
Robin Chase being the other person who started it.
04:15
Zipcar got some really important things right.
04:18
First, they really understood
04:20
that a brand is a voice and a product is a souvenir.
04:22
And so they were very clever
04:25
about the way that they packaged car-sharing.
04:27
They made it sexy. They made it fresh.
04:29
They made it aspirational.
04:31
If you were a member of the club,
04:33
when you're a member of a club, you're a Zipster.
04:35
The cars they picked didn't look like ex-cop cars
04:37
that were hollowed out or something.
04:40
They picked these sexy cars.
04:42
They targeted to universities.
04:44
They made sure that the demographic
04:46
for who they were targeting and the car was all matching.
04:48
It was a very nice experience,
04:51
and the cars were clean and reliable, and it all worked.
04:53
And so from a branding perspective, they got a lot right.
04:55
But they understood fundamentally
04:58
that they are not a car company.
05:01
They understand that they are an information company.
05:03
Because when we buy a car
05:06
we go to the dealer once, we have an interaction, and we're chow --
05:08
usually as quickly as possible.
05:11
But when you're sharing a car and you have a car-share service,
05:13
you might use an E.V. to commute,
05:16
you get a truck because you're doing a home project.
05:18
When you pick your aunt up at the airport, you get a sedan.
05:21
And you're going to the mountains to ski,
05:24
you get different accessories put on the car
05:27
for doing that sort of thing.
05:29
Meanwhile, these guys are sitting back,
05:31
collecting all sorts of data
05:33
about our behavior and how we interact with the service.
05:36
And so it's not only an option for them,
05:39
but I believe it's an imperative
05:42
for Zipcar and other mesh companies
05:44
to actually just wow us,
05:46
to be like a concierge service.
05:48
Because we give them so much information,
05:51
and they are entitled to really see
05:53
how it is that we're moving.
05:56
They're in really good shape to anticipate
05:58
what we're going to want next.
06:00
And so what percent of the day
06:02
do you think the average person uses a car?
06:04
What percentage of the time?
06:07
Any guesses?
06:09
Those are really very good.
06:15
I was imagining it was like
06:18
20 percent when I first started.
06:20
The number across the U.S. and Western Europe
06:22
is eight percent.
06:24
And so basically even if you think it's 10 percent,
06:26
90 percent of the time,
06:30
something that costs us a lot of money --
06:32
personally, and also we organize our cities around it
06:34
and all sorts of things --
06:36
90 percent of the time it's sitting around.
06:38
So for this reason,
06:41
I think one of the other themes with the mesh
06:43
is essentially that, if we squeeze hard
06:45
on things that we've thrown away,
06:47
there's a lot of value in those things.
06:49
What set up with Zipcar -- Zipcar started in 2000.
06:51
In the last year, 2010,
06:54
two car companies started,
06:56
one that's in the U.K. called WhipCar,
06:58
and the other one, RelayRides, in the U.S.
07:01
They're both peer-to-peer car-sharing services,
07:03
because the two things that really work for car-sharing
07:06
is, one, the car has to be available,
07:09
and two, it's within one or two blocks
07:12
of where you stand.
07:14
Well the car that's one or two blocks from your home or your office
07:16
is probably your neighbor's car,
07:18
and it's probably also available.
07:20
So people have created this business.
07:22
Zipcar started a decade earlier,
07:25
in 2000.
07:27
It took them six years
07:29
to get 1,000 cars in service.
07:31
WhipCar, which started April of last year,
07:33
it took them six months
07:35
to get 1,000 cars in the service.
07:37
So, really interesting.
07:39
People are making anywhere between
07:41
200 and 700 dollars a month
07:43
letting their neighbors use their car when they're not using it.
07:45
So it's like vacation rentals for cars.
07:48
Since I'm here --
07:52
and I hope some people in the audience
07:54
are in the car business --
07:56
(Laughter)
07:58
-- I'm thinking that, coming from the technology side of things --
08:00
we saw cable-ready TVs
08:03
and WiFi-ready Notebooks --
08:06
it would be really great if, any minute now,
08:09
you guys could start rolling share-ready cars off.
08:12
Because it just creates more flexibility.
08:15
It allows us as owners to have other options.
08:17
And I think we're going there anyway.
08:20
The opportunity and the challenge with mesh businesses --
08:22
and those are businesses like Zipcar or Netflix
08:25
that are full mesh businesses,
08:27
or other ones where you have a lot of the car companies,
08:30
car manufacturers,
08:33
who are beginning to offer
08:35
their own car-share services
08:37
as well as a second flanker brand,
08:39
or as really a test, I think --
08:41
is to make sharing irresistible.
08:43
We have experiences in our lives, certainly,
08:45
when sharing has been irresistible.
08:48
It's just, how do we make that recurrent
08:50
and scale it?
08:52
We know also, because we're connected in social networks,
08:54
that it's easy to create delight
08:57
in one little place.
08:59
It's contagious because we're all connected to each other.
09:01
So if I have a terrific experience
09:04
and I tweet it, or I tell five people standing next to me, news travels.
09:06
The opposite, as we know, is also true,
09:10
often more true.
09:12
So here we have LudoTruck, which is in L.A.,
09:14
doing the things that gourmet food trucks do,
09:16
and they've gathered quite a following.
09:18
In general, and maybe, again, it's because I'm a tech entrepreneur,
09:21
I look at things as platforms.
09:24
Platforms are invitations.
09:26
So creating Craigslist
09:28
or iTunes and the iPhone developer network,
09:30
there are all these networks -- Facebook as well.
09:33
These platforms invite all sorts of developers
09:35
and all sorts of people
09:38
to come with their ideas and their opportunity
09:40
to create and target an application
09:42
for a particular audience.
09:45
And honestly, it's full of surprises.
09:47
Because I don't think any of us in this room
09:49
could have predicted the sorts of applications
09:52
that have happened at Facebook, around Facebook,
09:54
for example, two years ago,
09:57
when Mark announced
09:59
that they were going to go with a platform.
10:01
So in this way, I think that cities are platforms,
10:03
and certainly Detroit is a platform.
10:06
The invitation of bringing
10:09
makers and artists and entrepreneurs --
10:11
it really helps stimulate this fiery creativity
10:13
and helps a city to thrive.
10:16
It's inviting participation,
10:18
and cities have, historically,
10:20
invited all sorts of participation.
10:22
Now we're saying that there's other options as well.
10:24
So, for example, city departments
10:27
can open up transit data.
10:29
Google has made available transit data API.
10:31
And so there's about seven or eight cities already in the U.S.
10:34
that have provided the transit data,
10:37
and different developers are building applications.
10:39
So I was having a coffee in Portland,
10:41
and half-of-a-latte in
10:44
and the little board in the cafe
10:47
all of a sudden starts showing me
10:50
that the next bus is coming in three minutes
10:52
and the train is coming in 16 minutes.
10:54
And so it's reliable, real data
10:56
that's right in my face, where I am,
10:58
so I can finish the latte.
11:00
There's this fabulous opportunity we have across the U.S. now:
11:03
about 21 percent
11:05
of vacant commercial and industrial space.
11:07
That space is not vital.
11:10
The areas around it lack vitality
11:13
and vibrancy and engagement.
11:16
There's this thing -- how many people here
11:18
have heard of pop-up stores or pop-up shops?
11:20
Oh, great. So I'm a big fan of this.
11:23
And this is a very mesh-y thing.
11:26
Essentially, there are all sorts
11:29
of restaurants in Oakland, near where I live.
11:32
There's a pop-up general store every three weeks,
11:35
and they do a fantastic job
11:38
of making a very social event
11:40
happening for foodies.
11:43
Super fun, and it happens in a very transitional neighborhood.
11:45
Subsequent to that,
11:49
after it's been going for about a year now,
11:51
they actually started to lease and create and extend.
11:54
An area that was edgy-artsy
11:57
is now starting to become much cooler
12:00
and engage a lot more people.
12:02
So this is an example.
12:04
The Crafty Fox is this woman who's into crafts,
12:06
and she does these pop-up crafts fairs around London.
12:09
But these sorts of things are happening
12:12
in many different environments.
12:14
From my perspective, one of the things pop-up stores do
12:16
is create perishability and urgency.
12:19
It creates two of the favorite words of any businessperson:
12:22
sold out.
12:25
And the opportunity to really focus trust and attention
12:27
is a wonderful thing.
12:30
So a lot of what we see in the mesh,
12:33
and a lot of what we have in the platform that we built
12:35
allows us to define, refine and scale.
12:37
It allows us to test things as an entrepreneur,
12:40
to go to market,
12:43
to be in conversation with people,
12:45
listen, refine something and go back.
12:47
It's very cost-effective,
12:50
and it's very mesh-y.
12:52
The infrastructure enables that.
12:54
In closing, and as we're moving towards the end,
12:58
I just also want to encourage --
13:01
and I'm willing to share my failures as well,
13:03
though not from the stage.
13:05
(Laughter)
13:07
I would just like to say that one of the big things,
13:09
when we look at waste
13:11
and when we look at ways that we can really be generous
13:13
and contribute to each other,
13:15
but also move to create a better economic situation
13:17
and a better environmental situation,
13:20
is by sharing failures.
13:23
And one quick example
13:25
is Velib, in 2007,
13:27
came forward in Paris
13:29
with a very bold proposition,
13:31
a very big bike-sharing service.
13:33
They made a lot of mistakes.
13:35
They had some number of big successes.
13:37
But they were very transparent, or they had to be,
13:39
in the way that they exposed
13:42
what worked and didn't work.
13:45
And so B.C. in Barcelona
13:47
and B-cycle
13:50
and Boris Bikes in London --
13:52
no one has had to repeat
13:54
the version 1.0 screw-ups
13:56
and expensive learning exercises
13:59
that happened in Paris.
14:01
So the opportunity when we're connected
14:03
is also to share failures and successes.
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We're at the very beginning of something
14:09
that, what we're seeing
14:11
and the way that mesh companies are coming forward,
14:13
is inviting, it's engaging, but it's very early.
14:15
I have a website -- it's a directory --
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and it started with about 1,200 companies,
14:21
and in the last two-and-a-half months
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it's up to about 3,300 companies.
14:25
And it grows on a very regular daily basis.
14:27
But it's very much at the beginning.
14:31
So I just want to welcome all of you onto the ride.
14:33
And thank you very much.
14:36
(Applause)
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About the Speaker:

Lisa Gansky - Entrepreneur
Lisa Gansky is the author of "The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing," and the instigator behind the Mesh Directory (www.meshing.it).

Why you should listen

Lisa Gansky is the author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing, and the “instigator” behind the Mesh Directory (http://meshing.it). She often speaks on the topic of technology, social currency and business platforms and models.

For more than 18 years, Gansky has been an entrepreneur and environmentalist focused on building companies and supporting ventures where there is an opportunity for well-timed disruption and a resounding impact. A founder and CEO of several internet companies, including GNN (the first commercial web publication) and the largest consumer photo sharing and print service, Ofoto (now Kodak Gallery), Gansky’s attention is on sustainable ventures with positive social impact. Gansky currently serves as a Director of Dos Margaritas, an environmental foundation focused in Latin America.

More profile about the speaker
Lisa Gansky | Speaker | TED.com