“If anyone is going to make it, that’s Graeme”. This is what Liftshare founder Ali Clabburn told me after our trip to San Francisco early this year (as part of the UK Trade & Investment sharing economy mission), where I had the chance to meet two of the three HiyaCar founders, Graeme (CEO) and Raj (investor). Ali speaks with great authority in the field, as he knows that taking a peer to peer car rental service off the ground will prove remarkably challenging in the UK. Others like WhipCar tried it in the past and did an outstanding work, but without any luck.
Actually the four of us (Graeme, Raj, Ali and I) shared an Airbnb flat during our time in San Fran, four incredible days packed with talks and meet-ups with some of the most successful startups from the Valley, such us eBay, GetAround or TaskRabbit to name a few. We all learned lots and I have to admit that sharing this experience with such a great group of people was quite emotional. I also became a big fan of HiyaCar, whose team is extremely motivated to say the least. You can see how driven they are; they have genuine and contagious passion about what they do.
After a while without posting anything, I asked Graeme to answer a few questions (which he kindly did) so you can get to know some of the amazing stuff they’re up to.
1/ Other startups like WhipCar and Carloco tried peer-to-peer car rental before but failed. Why is Hiyacar going to make it work?
Good question, I think there are quite a few differences between HiyaCar and others in this area (past and present) but one thing we have on our side, which certainly WhipCar didn’t, is timing. We have been very lucky with regards to our timing to market, for example WhipCar went live before Airbnb had even started trading and back then people’s mindset with regards to sharing assets was completely different. Technology advances since 2009 and even 2013 when Carloco started trading have kicked on massively, with the increase in smartphone ownership and little things like the DVLA checks becoming available online, unlike a three way conversation that had to take place a few years ago.
2/ You have successfully completed two crowdfunding campaigns through Seedrs. How was the experience? Which one was harder, the first one or the second one?
We have and it’s been very interesting, one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of hard work our team has put in behind the scenes which is key to a successful crowdfunding campaign. We think it’s important to secure some investment before going live to the public and in both rounds we have waited until we’ve raised 40% offline funding before going ‘live’.
With our first round, raising this 40% was really quite time consuming. We spent nearly a month behind the scenes pitching at different investor events to try and secure offline investment. When we had secured this 40% from people pledging offline, we went live on Seedrs and funded in just 5 days which was super quick.
This time around we managed to secure our 40% offline target within 6 days due to some fantastic support from our original investors, then went live and funded after 31 days.
So both rounds have been very successful but completely different.
3/ Are there any numbers that you could share? How is the public reacting to Hiyacar’s beta?
This is the exciting part for us as we have spent just £3,000 on marketing (AdWords) in the 3 months we have been trading and every metric is further ahead than we had predicted. Our North Star is the number of car hiya’s we create. At time of writing we have facilitated just over 50 hiya’s and every one of those have been successful. We’ve facilitated hourly hires, all the way up-to 9 day hiya’s and our average hiya duration is currently 2-3 days with the average daily hire price around £76. We have around 80 cars available to hiya in London and on average see a car owner signing up each day. We have a member database of 2,000 in London (our launch market) and over 10,000 nationwide.
4/ Hiyacar’s values are all about the community. What strategies are you pursuing to develop this community aspects?
Correct, we exist because we want to see a world where communities have the freedom to have a better life. This could be financial freedom from sharing their car or having the freedom to get into a neighbor’s car and hit the open road. We like to meet every car owner over a coffee or lunch where we discuss any questions and hand over our HiyaCar owners pack which empowers owners to get the most out of it, for example leaflets that they can share with people in their community and stickers to place inside their car.
We also host sharer on-boarding events regularly and are currently in the process of hiring a community manager whose main role will be to get even more ingrained with our community.
All three co-founders are signed up-to the founders pledge, which is a fantastic organisation and means that any money made personally from an exit, we will donate a percentage of that money to charities of our choice.
As a company we are also going to donate 1% of our revenue to the most active HiyaCar community each year; we are very focused on giving back to our members and the HiyaCar community.
5/ You’ve hit some remarkable milestones like securing a suitable insurance policy with Axa and the crowdfunding rounds. What’s next?
We are working on some very exciting projects behind the scenes and lots more in the pipeline, our website is always evolving and soon we will be able to facilitate large, high resolution, professional pictures of every car and some clever features with our suggested pricing and reviews. Our mobile app is nearly completed and will be launched within the next 4-6 weeks which is hugely exciting.
Unfortunately (for you and the readers) the most exciting piece of news for me is something which I can’t share just yet, but watch this space as we are very close to signing off with a game changing deal which we know our members are going to love and really help with scaling up the business.
6/ How much of a headache is the “pick-up the keys moment”?
Currently this isn’t a problem as both owners and hires seem to like meeting new people within their community which is fantastic. Through our telematic boxes we can see that our car hirers treat owners’ cars extremely well which is down to a mixture of things. One of which is the car hirer knows that the owner is going to rate them after the hire but more importantly, hirers know that they will be looking the car owner in the eye when they return the car, so take extra care of the car they are hiring.
7/ There are some potentially strong competitors in Europe (Drivy) and in the USA (GetAround). Do you expect new entrants to the UK market any time soon or are you ‘safe’ for now?
We get asked these questions a lot and, to be honest, there could be another ten companies launching in the UK and we would be ‘safe.’
With over 30 million cars on our roads in the UK and 2.53m of those in London, there are more than enough cars to go around. In my opinion though, I don’t expect to see many new entrants in the near future at least as insurance is such a huge barrier and there aren’t many of the top underwriters like Axa in the market who have the appetite for peer to peer models. We actually work quite closely with another peer to peer car hire company in the UK to help promote and push forward the benefits of consumer to consumer car hire.
We have 4 or 5 USPs which in our view (and our investors) set us apart from all other peer to peer car hire companies and for us we are completely focused on our community and creating car hiya’s.
8/ What’s your main source of motivation as an entrepreneur?
To always push the boundaries and ensure I’m always learning and evolving as a human being. I love solving and overcoming difficult challenges (some people call these problems) and for me personally I like to execute well and be the best at what I’m good at. I have my three P’s (persistent, productive and people) which I think are my strong areas and my motivation every day as an entrepreneur (I think this word is overused and not a huge fan of it) is to add value to the HiyaCar community.
9/ The happiest and the toughest day since you started this venture?
Happiest day is actually quite recent as we facilitated a car hiya where the owner and driver both lived in the same postcode (same street) and they have become good friends. For me this is what HiyaCar is all about, bringing communities together.
The toughest day is a tricky one as for me I have the best job in the world. I’ve always loved my cars and the way technology can connect people and distribute wealth to the right people (i.e., the users and not a corporation.). So I think the toughest day for me so far was when we closed our first Seedrs round. We always had a top end target of £300,000 which we reached in just 12 days, this meant we had to say ‘no’ to lots of potential investor which wasn’t nice
10/ What book would you recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I’m currently reading a great book called ‘The chimp paradox’, which is good read and might be number one.
I’ve read many great books over the years, the usual popular one’s stand out (‘Think and grow rich’, ‘The lean start-up’, ‘Eat that frog’, ‘Hooked’ – all of which are fantastic).
But the book which I learnt most from (and this is coming from somebody who spent 15 years working in the Investment Management) which I would recommend and will do to my children when they reach 14-15 years of age is ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, by Robert Kiyosaki.