Silvercar snags $11.5M to disrupt airport car rentals

By Erin Griffith , written on October 10, 2012

From The News Desk

Okay, they got me. Silvercar is not merely a luxury car rental service, as I wrote when I discovered the stealthy startup in March. To my credit, my guess was based on a job description Silvercar had written to trick nosy people like me. Fortunately for everyone, what they're building is slightly more interesting than just luxury car rentals.

And now they have $11.5 million with which to build it. Update: Investors include Austin Ventures, CrunchFund, SV Angel, Chris Dixon, and Dave Morin.

Silvercar aims to disrupt the car rental industry with a better user experience, featuring a fleet of Silver 2013 Audi A4s. This is a good thing -- the industry is basically an oligopoly, particularly after the merger of Hertz and Dollar Thrifty, announced in August. Now 95 percent of the car rental market in the US is controlled by three companies -- Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis. They have no incentive to make the process simple, streamlined or compete on price. Renting a car is a pain, and when you're stranded at the airport, you don't have much of a choice in the matter.

Silvercar will apply an Uber model to airport car rentals, targeting the business traveler with a savvy app, simple payment structure and Audis.

In a statement, the company wrote:

No check-in lines or traditional counters will exist at Silvercar locations. Customers with reservations through the Silvercar app or website will bypass the terminal rental car lines and proceed directly to Silvercar’s inventory of 2013 Audi A4s. Those who haven’t booked Silvercar in advance will have access to self-serve kiosks and on-site concierges.
I imagine Silvercar's incentive for staying stealth takes a cue from Uber too. If the drama caused by Uber every time it enters a new market is any indication of Silvercar's fate, I would want to stay quiet about it too. The company may face an uphill battle getting into airports when the powerful car rental industry gets wind of its plans.

The startup was co-founded by Bill Diffenderffer, former Skybus President and CEO. That was the short-lived discount airline service out of Ohio. He's been at Silvercar as Chairman since January.

Luke Schneider, former Chief Technology Officer of Zipcar, is Silvercar's CEO. Schneider left Zipcar in 2010. (He briefly acted as CEO of Creative Kingdom, some sort of theme park creative agency.) Before he became CTO of Zipcar, he was general manager for Zipcar's FastFleet division. So the company is being led by someone who understands how to disrupt the auto rental business, with a chairman who tried to do the same thing with airlines. I like their odds.

The company is in talks with airports and expects to launch by the end of the year.