What Drives Getaround.com's Jessica Scorpio

by Ellen Lee on October 3, 2011
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It’s been a whirlwind year for Jessica Scorpio (pictured). In May, she launched Getaround.com at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC, winning the conference’s coveted startup prize. In September, she and co-founders Sam Zaid and Elliot Kroo announced that they’d raised $3.4 million in funding — and that more than 5,000 people had already signed up for their peer-to-peer car-sharing service.

Getaround.com enables car owners to rent vehicles that would otherwise sit idle. The company, whose rivals include RelayRides and Spride, aims to take advantage of an emerging trend known as collaborative consumption, in which people share resources ranging from their kitchen gadgets to their homes. Getaround.com estimates that its car-owning members will make $6,000 to $10,000 this year renting their vehicles to others.

The concept for Getaround.com came out of a graduate project at Singularity University, an intense technology and management training program that challenges students to develop an idea that can positively impact the lives of a billion people within a decade. (Founded by a group of Silicon Valley movers and shakers, Singularity University is supported by Google, Cisco, and others.) Faced with that challenge, Scorpio and Zaid, members of the inaugural class, along with Kroo, whom they met at a developers conference, came up with Getaround.com.

Scorpio says the trio had read statistics showing that hundreds of millions of cars aren’t used each day, and they wanted to figure out a way to make our transportation system more efficient. Instead of leaving their car in the garage, owners post their vehicle for rent on the website and name their price. Borrowers can browse the site for available vehicles nearby. A car kit is pre-installed in the vehicles so once borrowers book a car, they can use their smartphone to get inside it.

The company believes that the car-sharing service will reduce the number of cars on the road since studies have shown people who car share are also more likely to consider alternative means of transportation. Scorpio says she hopes it ultimately encourages people to be more creative about how they, well, get around.

“If you can get a lot of people to car share, you can take cars off the road and positively impact people’s lives and have cleaner air,” she says. Once they get used to sharing transportation, she adds, “People will be more open to public transportation and walking and biking.”

The team spent about two years developing the technology to enable people to share their cars and to forge a deal with an insurance company to provide $1 million in coverage for car owners and borrowers.

Earlier this year, the 24-year-old Scorpio was also recognized as one of 18 must-watch female founders in technology, though it’s not necessarily a detail she focuses on. “I feel the same as any driven entrepreneur,” she says, adding that her biggest challenge is maintaining the startup pace, pushing herself hard while finding a balance between work and life. “You need to finish the marathon.”

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