We step into their office space and to be honest it was smaller than expected. Then Sylvain Celaire, Modo’s Business Development Manager, says “Yes we have approximately 15,000 members right now so things are going pretty good”.
So, you mean to tell me that this group of 25ish individuals are responsible for one of the largest car-sharing companies in Canada?
Sylvain responds, “Well we operate as a cooperative which brings us great flexibility when it comes to making decisions because our customers and shareholders are the same group. This freedom allows us to really exercise our entrepreneurial spirit and drive”
Let’s take a step back for a moment. What does Modo do exactly?
“Modo provides convenient, reliable and affordable access to the most diverse fleet of shared vehicles across the Lower Mainland and Victoria. Simply put, with Modo, you get all the benefits of having a car, without all the hassles of owning one (or two).”
Essentially, Modo provides a 450 car fleet (from sports cars, EVs & hybrids, to SUVs, trucks, and cargo vans) to 13 municipalities here in BC. To drive a Modo car, you pay $8/hour and become a registered shareholder in the company. So anytime you want to leave, you get paid out by Modo, and this helps keep the company on its toes to provide the best service. Other examples includes MEC and Vancity.
Mr Celaire outlined the 7 Universal Principals of Co-ops.
- Voluntary & Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy & Independence
- Education, Training, & Information
- Co-operation among Co-operatives
- Concern for Community
Sylvain Celaire emphasized how the decision to utilize the co-operative business model paid substantial rewards to the company, as it chased more than profits.
As an SFU student in the GEM Program focusing on Social Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Innovation, Modo was a great example of how to do it right.
Meet a Vancouver origin, Modo
Modo originally began in the late 90s borne out of an SFU thesis project. Since then, Modo’s competitive advantage comes from leveraging technology advances to become a leader in the car-sharing industry, known for its software developers. Sylvain spoke about how Modo had made great strides in improving its online presence (both website and app), as well as creating a flexible and modular back-of-house system that similar companies from around North America were looking to emulate.
As a co-operative, Modo has developed a community around its services. Without having to solely chase quarterly profit goals, the company can focus on long-term goals which promote sustainable and innovative progress. A diverse community of users also ensures that the fleet is being used consistently throughout the day, every day.
For those of us thinking about starting our own companies, Modo is a great example of how to unite people and profits, through its co-operative business model. Key takeaways for myself include using technology to create a competitive advantage in the market, regardless of your size. Another takeaway is that customer acquisition strategies do not stop once you make a sale, because companies have to consider what type of community they are creating amongst users, essentially asking the question, what factors unite our customers?