Take a look…
We caught up with the CEO of HiyaCar to find out more about the service the firm has to offer.
What it does, in a sentence: HiyaCar is an entirely peer-to-peer based platform which allows car owners to rent their vehicles out to members of the local community who need them.
Founded: February, 2016
Founder/s: Graeme Risby (CEO) & Rob Larmour (COO)
Size of team: 15 – 20
Your name and role: Graeme Risby, CEO
What problem are you trying to solve? Today, drivers are facing skyrocketing costs – whether it’s fuel, insurance or tax. On top of that, cars depreciate like no other asset – losing up to 60 per cent of their value in 3 years. Being a motorist has become a financial rollercoaster. However, cars remain a necessity for many and for others are very useful to have access to. We’re giving owners a solution to monetize their motor. By leveraging peer-to-peer sharing we connect owners with those people in the local community who need a car but don’t want the hassle associated with more traditional hiring.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own? There are over 30m cars across the UK, a lot of which aren’t used all the time. For London commuters, often their cars go unused in the week, lying idle in an expensive car park. Companies like Airbnb have opened people up to the prospect of sharing and we see an opportunity to get people sharing their cars. Our immediate target market is made up of city-dwellers who don’t have a car, or have one but don’t need it all the time. Currently, we have over 17,000 individual members (7,000 of those being based in London) however we will be expanding rapidly this year. By rolling out keyless technology we will streamline the hiring process even further, allowing members to rent a car in a matter of minutes from wherever they are in the city – a first for car sharing companies in Europe.
How do you make money? Members decide the price they want to offer their vehicle up for on HiyaCar, then from that price we take a commission. This generates our revenue, but it also covers running costs and importantly goes toward providing the unique, comprehensive customer service we are able to provide for all owners and hirers.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this? Having previously worked at a top-tier investment firm, I’ve seen first-hand the process behind a rapidly growing company, however I also identify with the consumer and have always been entrepreneurial when it comes to making money off a depreciating asset. Our COO Rob Larmour has managed a variety complex online platforms across both the UK and Ireland which have processed transactions for thousands of members. Mark Walker, previously GM at ZipCar is also working closely with us in an advisory role. On top of this we have hired a small but growing team of ambitious and passionate individuals, with a range of experience in the industry, who are more than capable of helping us achieve our ambitious trajectory.
Who’s bankrolling you? Last year we launched a crowdfunding campaign through Seedrs that bought in £2.2m in funding over the course of 12 months – that was 215 per cent over our funding target. Among others, one of the key backers of that campaign was start-up success story Photobox.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance? If your idea is good enough, crowdfunding can be a fantastic route to take. It also provides an instant test of whether your idea has mass appeal among the public and investors; when you’re driven and excited about a project it can be easy to get caught up in it and not see the bigger picture. As we’ve seen, crowdfunding can quickly give you a sense of perspective while surprising you with just how much enthusiasm there is – from a diverse range of investors – when you have a good idea.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is? I think there will be three key areas which will be necessary for us to grow this business. Firstly, we need to engage numerous local communities – at the moment we have done that by focusing on London and our results reflect that, with one in three of our users based in the city. Secondly, we will continue to provide an excellent level of customer support and will grow that network alongside our members to ensure it always meets demand and exceeds expectations. Finally, how we embrace new and emerging technology, such as keyless tech, will be an essential part of our growth.
What metrics do you look at every day? We keep a close eye on all our internal metrics. We consider the ratio of hirers to owners amongst our members so that we can meet demand. We look at the usage patterns to better understand how people are driving today – particularly in the city – which means looking at journey distance and duration as well as the most popular cars and locations. This allows us to understand the market patterns, make sure our owners are making money from their motors, while also ensuring members have access to cars when they need to hire. Alongside this, we also keep a keen eye on the general costs of car ownership – fuel, tax, insurance – and the challenges facing motorists today.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far? The biggest lesson has got to be that there simply is no silver bullet, when it comes to jumping ahead of the competition; these things take time. You have to keep running tests and learn from the data, then test again, learn more and adapt. It is all a learning process.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far? I think we misjudged the beginning of our journey, when we aimed to launch in Milton Keynes. We had some great talks with the council who were very keen to see us launch and really embraced the idea. However, caught up in the enthusiasm, we skimped on research regarding the general public in the area and there wasn’t the appetite at the time. We’re a young company, though, and in the end it’s another lesson learnt for next time which helped our launch in London and has put us on the path we’re on now.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead? We’re seeing a lot of news at the moment around new technology in the motoring industry. The headlines will often go to driverless cars – and it’s definitely an exciting area of development – but we are still a long way off autonomous vehicles becoming a reality. I think this year we will see an expansion in the sharing economy, and larger shift in societal attitudes toward ownership. I think we will see the rising sale of cars start to plateau as drivers catch on to the mind-boggling upkeep costs.
Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why? As any start-up knows, you live and breathe your business and often have little time to do anything else. However, I do keep a close eye on emerging sharing economy companies within the UK and I’ve actually invested a small amount personally in some of them through crowdfunding platforms. Under the Doormat (think personalised Airbnb – with local knowledge and personality shared along with the keys) Grub Club (connecting top chefs with empty spaces for unique pop-ups) and OpenPlay (joining empty courts and pitches with sporty types around the country) are three I have personally supported. Each have great ideas, and all of them, like HiyaCar, really embody the community spirit, and highlight the social benefits of sharing.