TreeHugger: How would you coach someone who is wary of dipping a toe in the water of collaborative consumption?
Rogers: I'd tell you to buy the book. Honestly, I think the book serves two purposes. It serves as a guide for the consumer about how to engage more in collaborative consumption. But it also advises businesses. Businesses ranging from the startup entrepreneur to a large macro-company, about how to adapt their businesses to take advantage of this rising trend. I think the book is very successful in this, and I think you have to read it to find out how to participate more.
TreeHugger: Should somebody buy the book new, wait until it comes up on Half.com, or borrow it from a friend?
Rogers: Listen, we totally encourage people to borrow it or share it, and we actually did something in the book to make that possible. At the beginning of the very first page of the book is an old-fashioned library card. We encourage people to put down their name, and when they've read it, hand it on to somebody else. Basically, we hope that these books will be redistributed free amongst everyone's friends and colleagues and that you'll be able to look at the book and see where it's traveled to.
We would have given the whole book away for free, but unfortunately publishers haven't quite bought into that business model yet. If you go to CollaborativeConsumption.com, you will be able to download large parts of the book for free.
TreeHugger: As an investor yourself, how do you see this from the perspective or scalable, high-growth opportunities?
Rogers: As an investor, I always use the same approach, which is I always look at the financial model. So when I get a business plan, I switch to the back and I look at the numbers. Then I come back and I read what the idea is, and I look at who's behind it, which is also very important. But first it has to make sense. The really fantastic thing about collaborative consumption is that you can make money with collaborative consumption. Look at eBay. Look at Airbnb. What they're really doing is they're facilitating commerce, and then making money at the same time.
The margins in these businesses are tremendous, and the advantages to the consumer and the attraction to the consumer are fantastic. So they actually have very, very strong business propositions and opportunities.
TreeHugger: How is this going to change things fundamentally?
Rogers: It's going to change everything. It's going to change the way we design products: they'll be designed to last longer, to be more embedded in the notion of sharing and be able to be passed on more efficiently, and to be serviced and repaired better. It's going to change our economy. It's going to change our labor markets. It's going to create people who not only build and manufacture and invent products, but also people who service them, because we're going to encourage people to take their products and send them back for repair rather than just throw them out.
The model is going to change what it means to be an entrepreneur and what it means to be a businessman. One of my favorite things about collaborative consumption is a lot of people who are starting these businesses did not go to Harvard Business School. They are simply people who looked and they said, "we have an extra living room," or they said, "we have an extra car that's not being used five days a week," or "I have so much stuff. I wish I could figure out a way to give it away for free which wasn't a hassle."
These are the people who are making businesses that are getting investments from Sequoia Capital. So it's going to change every aspect of our economy, our society, and our culture. It's going to create stronger communities, stronger business, and a better environment for us to live in.