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创业传奇:Zipcar创始人转战新市场

Dinah Eng 2012年12月06日

她是三个孩子的母亲,创业前完全没有汽车行业的从业经验,但却从自己的生活经历中汲取灵感,创办了全球领先的汽车共享网络。公司发展如日中天之时,她又急流勇退,再次踏上创业的征程。

    在此期间,我们将业务扩展到许多大学城。Zipcar的目标消费群是不需要开车上班的人,大学自然成了理想之选。早期,麻省理工大学和哈佛大学(Harvard)都给我们提供了停车场,还我们进行推广。由于许多人不再开自己的车,而是共用Zipcar的汽车,也就不再需要停车场,于是我们也消除了这些大学在校园内加建停车场的必要。2003年,完成一轮700万美元融资后,公司已经具备了盈利能力。这一年,我父亲去世,我16岁的女儿成为一名超级模特。【卡梅隆•拉塞尔,现年25岁,为卡尔文•克莱恩(Calvin Klein)、普拉达(Prada)、香奈儿(Chanel)和其他许多设计师担任模特。】当时,我非常消沉,觉得自己想做的都已经做到了。于是在2003年,我辞掉了CEO职位。在公司董事会任职两年后,彻底离开Zipcar。现在,我还持有这家公司的部分股份。

    离开Zipcar后,我申请了哈佛大学的勒布奖学金,深造了一年,学习了城市规划、交通和互联网等各方面的知识。2007年,我成立了一家车辆共乘公司Coloco.com,但这家公司的理念太过超前。美国人尚无法接受车辆共乘的概念。这种理念总有一天会在美国普及,但并不是现在。

    交通方面,法国的做法比美国更加超前。法国率先推出自行车共享出行,我曾就大规模单向电动车共享出行咨询过巴黎市政府。去年12月,巴黎市政府投入了1,800辆这种汽车,我也想参与其中。

    于是,2011年6月,我在法国成立了Buzzcar公司,支持车主将汽车出租给朋友和邻居。公司成立至今已有15个月时间,在法国共有12,000名会员和1,500辆汽车。我的联合投资方是法国一家大型私营运输公司Mobivia。

    拥有一个愿景,并能说服人们投资自己创办的事业,而只有你自己能亲眼见证这份事业一步步的发展,这总是让我非常兴奋,不论要经历多少艰难痛苦的日子。我曾开玩笑说,交通是我们日常生活的中心。但同时,我也坚信这一点。我们上班和回家的出行体验会让我们对未来的展望更加多彩。交通占家庭预算的18%,全球二氧化碳排放30%来自交通部门。看到我所成立的公司能够产生社会效益,便是对我最大的回报。

我的建议

    充分利用其别人的闲置能力。我与麻省理工大学建立了合作伙伴关系,校方向其35,000名教职人员和学生发送电子邮件,鼓励他们加入Zipcar。学校这么做不需要任何成本,但从营销角度来讲,我需要投入大笔资金才能取得同样的效果。

    Along the way, we opened in a number of university towns. Zipcar is targeted at people who don't need a car to get to work, and universities are a natural fit. Early on, MIT and Harvard gave us parking spaces and helped market the company. We eliminated the need for each of them to build a parking garage on their campus because of the large number of people who shared Zipcar instead of driving and parking their own vehicles.

    When I finished raising a $7 million round of financing in 2003, we were on the road to profitability. I also had a father who was dying, and a daughter who was becoming a supermodel at age 16. (Cameron Russell, now 25, models for Calvin Klein, Prada, Chanel, and many other designers.) I was a complete wreck, and decided I'd done everything I wanted to do. I stepped down as CEO in 2003, stayed on the board for two years, then left. I still hold some shares in the company.

    After Zipcar, I did a Loeb fellowship at Harvard for a year and learned a lot about urban planning, transportation, and the Internet. I started a ride-sharing company called Goloco.com in 2007, but was too early with it.America's not ready for ride sharing. It will be one day, but not now.

    France is a step ahead of the U.S. in transportation practice. It had been leading with shared transportation in bikes, and I'd been consulting with the city of Paris on transportation with one-way electric-car sharing on a large scale. It launched 1,800 such cars in Paris in December last year, and I wanted to be in the mix.

    So in June 2011, I started Buzzcar in France, which allows you to rent your own car to friends and neighbors. The company is 15 months in now, with 12,000 members and 1,500 cars throughout France. My co-investor is a large, privately held French transportation company named Mobivia.

    It's exciting to have a vision, to persuade people to invest in what you're building, and a privilege to see it play out, despite many a miserable and hard day. I joke, yet believe, that transportation is at the center of our daily lives. Our outlook is colored by what it was like to get to work and home. Transportation contributes to 18% of the household budget and 30% of the world's CO2 emissions. It's extremely rewarding to see the social benefits that have come from the companies I have founded.

My advice

    Leverage other people 's excess capacity. I made a partnership with MIT in which they sent an e-mail to their 35,000 staff and students about joining Zipcar. It cost them next to nothing to do and, from a marketing standpoint, would have cost me a lot to buy.

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