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Five Lessons on the Sharing Economy, From a Turo Executive

Canada director on what the peer-to-peer car lending service has learned

Would you rent a car from a stranger? How about lending your car to one? Turo allows would-be car borrowers to connect with car owners, who rent out their vehicles using an app and website. Having debuted in Boston in 2009 as RelayRides, the service renamed and rebranded as Turo last year and launched in Canada in April. For Cedric Mathieu, the company’s Canadian director, the Great White North seemed like the best fit for its first foray outside of the United States, given the growing number Canadians using the marketplace during their travels south of the border. Right now Turo operates in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, and hopes to expand to all 10 provinces.

Here, Mathieu shares five lessons on what he’s learned as an executive with one of the world’s most successful sharing economy companies. (We’ve edited his words.)

The market filters out the duds

A lot of marketplaces launch but it takes a lot of effort to bring an interesting product and transform it into a successful business that’s really of value to people. [Some people say that Canada is late on the uptake of the sharing economy, but] I would even say that sometimes it’s good to be behind because the market filters out all the ideas and products, and only brings the more successful ones here. I don’t think that the world needs a thousand different sharing economy companies. I think, in the long term, you’ll have a few winners in every vertical in the market, and everyone will be happy with it.

Open mindedness paves way for disruption

My sense is that the sharing economy [in Canada] and disruption in general is really thriving. Especially in a city like Toronto, which is a very international, with people from all around the world bringing different perspectives to the city. What I feel here is that people are willing to try new things. And at Turo, we’re really impressed with our success considering that we only launched in April. The fact that people were actually using the platform after a couple of days without knowing much about it, really speaks to the fact that people are very open minded here. And I think this is what you need to create disruption. Obviously, the biggest companies are still coming from San Francisco, but here in Toronto, and in Canada in general, you have all the ingredients to create disruption.

Courtesy Turo

"People now have access to a greater selection of products and services, and the experience is … more convenient"

Success comes from being pioneering

Most of our values are really centred around being pioneering because it reflects what we do. We are doing things differently as a company. We are doing something that’s new; creating a novel car rental experience. I think that’s something that needs to be reflected in people’s work and people’s state of mind when they come to the office. Another thing is that we are down to earth, and we are here to create value without being arrogant. We want to be really collaborative and humble. And then other values include being efficient and supportive. Those are simple, but when you combine them together they’re very powerful.

People want to feel like they’re part of something bigger

People are so excited about these sharing economy companies because of a mix of different things. First of all, I think it’s the idea of being part of something that changes things for good, and being part of something new. And again, being a pioneer. We always go back to this. Six months ago, there were no Turo owners, no one in Canada could make extra money from their cars. I think that the people who jumped on board and trusted the Turo platform now feel like they’re part of a community.

Everyone wants more freedom

The sharing economy is changing a lot of different aspects of people’s lives. People now have access to a greater selection of products and services, and the experience surrounding these products and services is generally more convenient. They also have access to more prices and more personal experiences. That’s on the user side of things. And on the other side, people are becoming providers and business operators. Previously, for example, you used to just be someone who had a car. With Turo, the person now has this whole rental car business. I think this creates a lot of freedom, and allows people to work on their own terms with no long-term commitment, which is in line with many trends in our society.

Published Sunday, October 30th 2016

Header image credit: Shutterstock

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