Educational background: Wellesley College, English, French, Philosophy; Harvard University, Loeb Fellowship
Current or most recent position: Zipcar, Co-founder, Former CEO; Meadow Networks, Founder & CEO
In 2000 I founded Zipcar — an innovative company that provides people with 24-hour self-service access to cars. My experience with Zipcar illuminated for me the tight links between how we build our cities, the resulting mobility options, and our ability to curb CO2 emissions. The experience culminated in my receipt of a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard School of Design. The Fellowship is for people interested in improving the built environment and charges recipients to go out and improve the world.
I used the Fellowship to look for high leverage points: How can we reduce CO2 emissions in a world in love with the car and with a built environment that is totally dependent on it? Zipcar taught me how market mechanisms can be fast and direct means of achieving behavior change. A tool called road pricing — taxing people by the mile instead of by the gallon — and its corollary, congestion pricing — tolls based on congestion level — are the means by which I think we can achieve this behavior change. World trends of increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles (reducing gas revenues) and increasing numbers of cars being added to fixed city streets (Beijing adds 1000 cars a day) make the movement toward adoption of these pricing mechanisms inexorable. Singapore and London have implemented congestion pricing, and Stockholm, Sao Paolo, New York, Seoul, and Shanghai are discussing it. The U.K. recently announced that it will switch from gas taxes to road pricing by 2014. I intend to build a customizable turn-key road pricing system for these cities and countries. In an odd way, Zipcar's fee structure can be seen as an example of road and congestion pricing.
When you go to MIT Sloan, you are not only a part of the MBA program, but also a member of the prestigious MIT “club.” I have tapped the expertise of many talented individuals from MIT's Media Lab, Transportation, Civil Engineering, and Urban Planning departments (and others). The MIT network has been an unexpected delight and instrumental in building both Zipcar, as well as my new venture. However many doors the MIT Sloan connection may open, it's still up to you to prove yourself once you're in the room.
When I first arrived at MIT Sloan, I was so struck by my classmates. Instead of business school students focused on self-promotion and getting ahead, I found individuals committed to providing employment opportunities, producing cheaper fuels, and improving the environment — in other words, helping to better the lives or communities of others.