A Q&A with Silvercar CEO Luke Schneider. TheAustin–based company was founded in March of this year and raised $11.5 million in Series A funding in mid-October. Investors include Austin Ventures, CrunchFund and SV Angel.
SUB: Please describe Silvercar and your value proposition.
Schneider: Silvercar reimagines the airport car rental experience for the connected business traveler with a refreshing combination of:
A better experience. Hassle-free, from reservation to return. No lines, no counters, no upsells. Simple, logical insurance options and one sensible fueling plan. Customers experience the freedom of going straight to the car, and getting on the road without delay. Friendly, experienced concierges are always nearby should a customer need assistance.
A better car. 2013 Audi A4s—in silver, of course—comprise our entire fleet. No surprises, no disappointments. All vehicles are equipped with Audi’s award-winning multi-media interface, Audi Connect service, Sirius/XM radio and a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot.
Mobile lifestyle integration. From reservation to return, the entire experience is smartphone-based. Customers sign up, reserve, select and unlock, even receive a receipt electronically using their iOS, Android or web-enabled mobile device. Relevant points of interest for any given trip can even be pushed from a traveler’s cloud profile directly to their selected vehicle at the airport for simple, turn-key navigation using the vehicle’s in-dash multimedia interface.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Schneider: Our target customers are connected business travelers that make their own decisions regarding how they travel. They prefer a premium, high quality experience, without going ‘over-the-top.’ And they demand consistency, secure in the knowledge their travel will meet expectations every time.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Schneider: We are entering a large incumbent market, dominated by a handful of well-established companies. We’re mindful of the concentration of business among these industry incumbents, and we’re energized by the opportunity to introduce to the world our unique and refreshing experience. We’re confident our offering will find favor with our targeted segments.
SUB: What differentiates Silvercar from the competition?
Schneider: From the customer’s perspective we are differentiated by our fast, frictionless, consistent customer experience; delivering a premium vehicle every time; and smartphone enablement, which puts the power back in the hands of the customer, where it belongs. At Silvercar there are no counters, no lines, no hassles.
From the business model perspective, Silvercar is differentiated by our single vehicle fleet, and the technology-enablement of our operational and back-end processes that deliver our signature customer experience. A single vehicle fleet reduces complexity and provides flexibility of supply. Leveraging technology on the back end improves fleet efficiency and visibility.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Schneider: The company was the inspiration of co-founders Todd Belveal and Bill Diffenderffer. Together with a small, dedicated group of individuals, and further support from Austin Ventures, they developed the concept into the company it is today. Silvercar was incorporated in March of 2012.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Silvercar? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Schneider: We like to say Silvercar is a brilliant idea that was ‘hiding in plain sight.’ It happened, as many great ideas do, as a result of one too many frustrating experiences at the rental car counter, and a vehicle that met neither the needs of our founders, nor their price expectations. The subsequent addition of various components happened over the months that followed, through the contributions of a team with deep industry expertise, and solid early-stage experience.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Schneider: The name Silvercar is literally the most visible example of our offering—a silver Audi A4. We believe the company name should be directly connected to what we do, in the customer’s mind.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Schneider: As an early stage company we have no shortage of challenges. Developing the concept into both a compelling offering and a profitable business model is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our early team, as well as our supportive investors. Fortunately, the company is viewed with enough interest and potential that funding has been plentiful. It has come from influential sources across the country—from Austin, to New York, to Silicon Valley, to Seattle.
SUB: You just raised $11.5 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Schneider: The equity capital will be used to commence operations in our initial markets and develop our offering for rapid expansion.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Schneider: The timing of this capital raise is driven by the strategic convergence of several trends. We’ve seen the proliferation of consolidated rental facilities at airports, the marvelous marriage between mobile computing and travel, the dawn of “connected cars”, and the widespread adoption of personal transportation alternatives from Getaround to Uber to Zipcar. There has arguably never been a better time to launch Silvercar.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Schneider: Silvercar will generate revenue in the same manner as conventional airport car rental companies—through daily vehicle rentals at the nation’s leading airports.
SUB: What are your goals for Silvercar over the next year or so?
Schneider: Silvercar is excited by the opportunity to make a measurable impact on an industry that is ready for innovation, and we’re confident in the ability of our team to deliver a great experience, game-changing technology, and most importantly value for our customers, shareholders and employees.
Silvercar – www.silvercar.com