Photo: Praveen (left), with founder of ShareShed, Daniel DuBois, an EO GSEA finalist
The sharing economy is reinventing the way people think, act and play while affecting nearly every industry. We’re witnessing a generational shift toward people collecting memories over stuff. Praveen Varshney, a long-time EO Vancouver member and investor in Lyft, Guiides.com, ShareShed and other sharing-economy companies, is capitalizing on this new movement while helping the environment through supporting a culture of access over ownership.
What inspired you to invest in peer-to-peer marketplaces?
“I’m always looking for new ways to innovate. With the success of Airbnb and Uber, I saw an opportunity to use my investments as a tool to make a return while moving society forward.”
How did you get your foot in the door for investing in companies like Lyft?
“Another aspect of the current market environment I’ve been very actively following is the growth in crowd-sourcing and equity crowd-funding. We’re investors in another EO Vancouver member’s equity crowd-funding platform, InvestX. InvestX offers access to U.S. VC-backed deals that normally investors wouldn’t have access to; Lyft and Spotify (which we invested in, as well) are two of them.”
Why do you think the sharing economy is so lucrative?
“It’s all about freedom. People want to have access to anything they could ever want without the burden of having to buy and store a ton of stuff. Millennials think like that, and as I’ve gotten older, similarly I’ll spend more on experiences than on material goods.”
Can traditional businesses join this new movement?
“If you’re not disrupting yourself someone else will be. I recommend hiring or acquiring a team of young, scrappy entrepreneurs to try and innovate upon your business constantly.”
What’s an example of one of your portfolio companies changing a traditional industry?
“Guiides.com is increasing access to outdoor adventures by making it easy for people to discover and book outdoor adventures led by local guides. This helps independent guides compete against heavily solidified guiding companies, and helps people discover and book authentic experiences you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Guiides.com also is a great tool for Forums to organize their retreats since they offer custom trips.”
Where do you see this movement going?
“I see more and more on-demand models appearing. We live in a day of instant gratification and people want things in real-time. The industry is moving very quickly, and I can only imagine how much on-demand services there will be with automated cars.”
How can EO members learn more about this movement?
“There are two great TED Talks that I would start with. There’s ‘The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,’ by Rachel Botsman, and ‘The Power of Consumerism,’ by Daniel Dubois.”
What role does technology play in the sharing economy?
“Technology makes it easy to organize information and liquefy marketplaces. Technology has played a massive role in globalization and bringing our world closer together. Many of these new marketplaces are also bringing people closer locally with an online-to-offline model.”
Why is it important to use your values as a filter for your investments?
“A large part of our happiness comes from our alignment with our purpose and values. We all have the power to make a difference through everything we do. I want all of my actions to represent my values, including my investments.”
What other movements are you following?
“Another big trend is the movement and awareness of proper food, nutrition and diet. We have investments in four organic food companies, and as consumer demand grows the sector, the large food companies are acquiring these companies to stay relevant.”