E-commerce hit $1 trillion in sales worldwide last year, and both investors and entrepreneurs are betting it's only going to get bigger. This digital economy is unlocking value for consumers and opening the door to new growth opportunities unforeseen just a decade ago.
Who's ushering in this new era of business?
John Donahoe is the chief executive of peer-to-peer online auction and shopping website eBay. Since taking the helm in 2008, eBay's market capitalization has grown to $68 billion, thanks to its wildly successful mobile business. While Donahoe, formerly the CEO of consulting firm Bain & Co., is focused on maintaining the 18-year-old company's competitiveness, he embraces how the new generation of tech entrepreneurs is pushing the industry forward.
Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia
Rhode Island School of Design classmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia are routinely put in the disruptor category. In 2008, they founded travel rentals site Airbnb, which is shaking up the hotel industry. The company, last valued at $2.5 billion, lists more than 200,000 active, bookable properties in 192 countries and boasts that every 2 seconds a night of travel is booked via their website.
Chesky and Gebbia came up with Airbnb after struggling to pay rent for their San Francisco apartment. Chesky explained there was a conference coming to the area, and all the hotels were sold out. "And so we had this idea. What if we turned our home into a bed and breakfast?" said Chesky. "Except, of course, I just moved up there. So I didn't have any beds. And then Joe said, 'I have two airbeds.' And it became…AirBedandBreakfast.com."
Jeff Jordan, Airbnb board member and general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, couldn't be more excited about this access economy. "There's a benefit in economics, a benefit in access, a benefit in quality [where people] get to experience something that they couldn't have experienced before," he said.
Jordan is primarily interested in investments across the consumer Internet. Prior to joining his current firm, he was the CEO of OpenTable. He led the online restaurant reservations company through its successful initial public offering in 2009, which surged nearly 60 percent in its trading debut.
Fellow investor Shervin Pishevar is knee-deep in the consumer Internet space. The Menlo Ventures Advisor revealed he has invested in more than 40 companies for the firm and personally, including Taskrabbit, Kitchit, Uber, and Getaround.
"These entrepreneurs, they weren't around just a few years ago," said Pishevar. "They're young, and they're creating billions of dollars of value in our economy in a matter of a couple years." Pishevar is also a successful entrepreneur. He founded Webs.com, which was sold to Vistaprint for $117.5 million; Social Gaming Network (SGN), which merged with Mindjolt; and Hyperoffice.
While in Stanford University's StartX accelerator program, former investment banker Brendan Marshall co-founded celebrity chef-for-hire booking service Kitchit. The 28-year-old helped arrange for chef Dan Kluger of New York City's ABC Kitchen to prepare the dinner for "Seat At The Table."
"What we're about at Kitchit is really creating joy," he said. "So you're going to be hungry the next day, and you're going to need another meal. But this moment, this experience is what stays with you." Kitchit is currently available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
Travis Kalanick wants to offer the luxe life with his latest startup Uber, an on-demand car service that's raised almost $50 million. This app helps cab-seeking riders find available taxi and black car-service drivers in more than 30 cities worldwide.
"Our motto is, 'Everyone's private driver.' So if you had your own private driver … you would just get out of the car when you wanted to get out. There's no vouchers. There's no cash," he said. Prior to Uber, Kalanick had a successful start-up called Red Swoosh, an enterprise delivery company, which he sold to Akamai Technologies for $15 million in 2007.
Another car-service company at the table is Jessica Scorpio's Getaround. Her company is a peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace she founded in 2009 while in the inaugural Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University.
"Imagine you have a car, it probably sits parked a lot of the time. We're enabling people to pay for their car by sharing it," she said. "Getaround provides the insurance and the technology to make it really easy to rent someone else's car." Scorpio, a former political aide in the Canadian government, said more than 10,000 car owners have signed up for the site; she's raised $19 million so far.
Jennifer Hyman is the CEO of Rent the Runway, described as a "Netflix for Fashion." Over 3 million members come to the site to rent designer clothes and accessories for a fraction of the retail value. Hyman believes the borrowing trend will continue to disrupt industries beyond just the fashion world.
"Consumption has changed in that way. And I think that all of these businesses are in the business of giving someone their own Cinderella moment," said the Harvard Business School alum. Some of the designers found on Rent the Runway include Judith Leiber, Matthew Williamson, and Versace.