By: Daniel Dubois; Edited by: Russell Silver
Q: When did you first start experimenting with entrepreneurship?
A: It all started when I was 5. I began by picking moss across the street from my house and selling it door to door for $5 a bag. Kind of a ridiculous way of getting into it, but it was my way. I eventually had my friends sell moss for me, and that escalated to Kool Aid. People were unhappy about whatever price I set, but when I installed a “pay what you want” model, I made a lot more money!
From there I started my own clothing line in elementary school, then again in high school. I was just on Microsoft paint designing a logo for my mom’s company at the time. I ended up getting bored and designing my initials, brought it to a custom embroidery place to get it stitched onto my clothing, but they had minimum quantities. I wanted it done, so I ordered the minimum and started a clothing line—it all rolled from there.
Q. What was your inspiration for ShareShed?
A: What led me to ShareShed was an experience abroad that inspired me to build something bigger than myself that would have a positive impact. I was backpacking across Australia—three weeks into the trip, I connected with someone who ended up hosting us with their family. I was on the other side of the world, had basically no money, and essentially no material possession either. But this family was so giving, and that allowed us to do basically everything that we wanted.
When I got home, I watched a Ted Talk on the rise of the sharing economy and it helped me reestablish the line between what you have and what you have access to. ShareShed is based entirely on that concept.
Q: What were the first couple steps to get started?
A: It’s tough, because there are a million first steps. I honestly had no idea how to get started, because this was a new domain for me. So, I Googled web developers in Vancouver and cold called every single one of them to get some direction and an idea of what I needed.
After a lot of rejection I was able to connect with some mentors, fine tune the idea, and realize what I really wanted to build. I knew wanted to focus on the share economy, but what really got me started was being selected as a fellow for The Next Big Thing Program. It was my first real exposure to full time, full fledged tech entrepreneurship, and it really taught me what it means to found a tech startup. It was incredible for improving management and productivity monitoring. It really helped me understand the best approach to building something.
Q: What, in your opinion, are the implications of the “sharing economy” on traditional businesses?
A: I think it changes everything. It’s a complete generational shift from a mindset of ownership to a mindset of having access. The idea of ownership is completely irrelevant now. The idea of ownership is meaningless to a greater extent. If you need an item, you need the function—not the item itself.
Cars sit parked for 23 hours of the day completely unused. The average time a drill is used from purchase to landfill is under 15 minutes, but 50% of houses in the USA own drills. This can get much broader. Look at our money—our financial system. We have an unbelievable amount of money just sitting in banks and in storage not being used, so now we have peer to peer lending and cheaper loans.
Q: How do you feel about countless cities trying to stop some of the giants in the sharing economy space?
A: I think it should be regulated—the sharing economy needs it. Some of the regulations that come out are just a matter of creating a response to such rapidly moving sectors. I completely understand from a political standpoint where they’re coming from—they’re shooting a target that’s disturbing heavily lobbied industries and gaining a ton of attention.
It’s just a matter of regulating it properly. Not over regulating it.
Q: You have been featured in a number of media outlets, both personally and for ShareShed. How would other entrepreneurs go about getting coverage like this?
A: What really helped me was being a part of communities that would be able to benefit from me being in the media. Even as a student, I stayed close with the director of marketing and communications at my university. I kept him updated on my project and he was really supportive from the start.
What I think allowed me to get my initial media appearances was my persistence and follow-up with him. Having him see my traction and progress led to the point where when he launched the university blog, he featured me in it and I was the first piece of media. From there I captained a few more things, a local newspaper picked up the story, then CTV picked it up, CBC, and so on.
As far as advice, everyone’s journey is so different so it’s tough to give it. It’s all about leveraging communities that you’re already part of. For ShareShed’s next big media push, we’re going to try and get the most out of being part of The Next Big Thing, and use their network to promote what we’re doing. When somebody has a vested interest in seeing you succeed, they will help open doors and see to it that you have a better chance at success. At that point, it isn’t just you fighting—it’s the organizations that you’re representing standing behind you as well.