The park ‘n share economy has arrived at the airport, with three such rental car companies launching in the last six months. In case you don’t know, park ‘n share works like this: Someone flying out for a trip parks their car in a designated lot near the airport. Employees paid by the park ‘n share company take the keys and hand that person’s car off to someone else flying into the airport, who rents it while the owner is out of town. It’s like car-sharing with a pseudo-middleman.
The first park ‘n share company FlightCar is a Y-Combinator startup that launched six months ago and operates out of SFO and Boston Logan Airport. SFO is in the midst of suing it for not paying the airport licensing fees that other rental cars pay. Oops.
The second company is RelayRides, which has offered regular car sharing since June 2010, and launched a facilitated airport park ‘n share feature a few weeks ago. It’s backed by Google Ventures and Shasta Ventures among others and has raised $13 million in funding
The third and final company, Hubber, launched in June — it’s the first park ‘n share to hit LAX and the only one not backed by venture capital. It’s taken a very different path from the Silicon Valley-steeped RelayRides and FlightCar, although they’re all operating in the same space. Its founder, Paul Davis, never thought he would start his own company. When we chatted, he wasn’t totally sure about the difference between a seed round and a Series A round, and he didn’t see anything unusual in the fact that he didn’t take venture capital.
“I wanted to take the risk on my own because I don’t necessarily want it to not work on someone else’s dime,” Davis told me on the phone. “I’ve been bootstrapping till now.”
Davis isn’t a typical founder — he’s a non tech, non business guy who worked as a production manager in Hollywood when he came up with the idea for Hubber. In winter 2012, he leased a house in Tahoe to visit when he was between films. He purchased a car to get him to and from his vacation home and the Renoe airport. When he was working on a flick in LA, the car would sit useless near the Nevada airport for weeks on end, giving him the idea of a peer to peer airport car sharing service.
“I needed guidance, so I picked up the phone and found a consulting group in New York — Abrams Carsharing Advisors,” Davis says. “I called them up and said, ‘Is anyone doing this?’ And they said, ‘No but we like the idea.’”
Abrams pointed Davis in the right direction, told him the key players, and introduced him to vendors that could provide insurance, branding, DMV checks, parking violation processing, and all the other backbone elements to car sharing.
Now, a year and a half later, Hubber has launched at LAX.
Here’s how Hubber works: The company has a contracted parking lot that’s a five minute shuttle ride from the airport. Car owners drop their car off with a valet at the lot who washes it and fills the gas tank. When the renter arrives, who has reserved the car in advance online, the valet checks their ID, and they hop in and go.
Renters pay $40 per day for lower-end “coach” cars, and up to $75/day for the luxury, “first class” models. Car owners get $10-$20 a day for “renting” out their car, and Hubber takes the rest. For renters, that price includes car insurance, but not gas. However, if renters return the car to the lot with an empty tank, Hubber only charges them the cost of the gas — no inflated fees.
With RelayRides and FlightCar breathing down its neck, Hubber isn’t the only park ‘n share option out there, but it’s gotten a head start by being the first in LA. Davis is glad for the additional competition. He says his biggest business challenge in the future is getting consumers to trust these types of systems, and more startups who run this platform will raise awareness.
“You need saturation in the industry for it to get mainstream,” Davis says. “The more of us there raising awareness the better it is for all of us.”
[Image courtesy of Mo Riza]