Recently-launched Hubber brings a unique approach to peer-to-peer car sharing
A Q&A with Hubber founder and CEO Paul Davis. The Los Angeles-based startup was founded last year and launched its first car sharing and rental hub at LAX airport earlier this month.
SUB: Please describe Hubber and your primary innovation.
Davis: Hubber brings peer-to-peer sharing to the airport, matching outbound car owners with inbound car renters. It is a step beyond car rental by using a virtual fleet from outgoing passengers and using Internet technologies to guarantee a specific car, and eliminate the need for car rental lines and checkout procedures. It’s a step beyond peer-to-peer or car sharing operations by having a physical airport presence where the two parties converge.
Owners have an option they never have had when traveling to the airport: a service that pays them for that convenience instead of shelling out on long term parking, a taxi, or car service, while also getting some rental revenue, and a washed and fueled car upon return. Inbound car renters get car rental with better vehicles, new levels of service with their selected car having valet parking, and all car options like GPS bundled in and insurance included.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Davis: Innovators and early adopters between the age range of 21-and-40.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Davis: At the moment, our competition is with rental car companies and car share organizations.
SUB: What differentiates Hubber from the competition?
Davis: Hubber differs from rental car companies because we use a virtual fleet where we use cars that city residents use instead of stripped-down rental cars with no vehicle features or personalities. Our cars have options like GPS, satellite radio, bike racks, leather seats—whatever an owner might have in their car that fits into the environment of that city. For example: LAX with surf racks and Tahoe with ski racks and snow tires—when we expand there.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Davis: Hubber was founded in 2012, with operations officially launching at LAX in June 2013. At first, we immersed ourselves in market research on an analytical level to gain a deep understanding of the rental car and car sharing market. Additionally, we spent time using and testing the services of the competition, car rentals, and car share organizations to find best practices. From that, we learned what we could do better.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Hubber? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Davis: The ‘aha’ moment came when I was renting a ski house and took my car up there for the season, as rental cars meant having to get snow chains and ski racks specific to each rental. I paid for airport parking in between trips because it was cheaper than outfitting rental cars. A friend was traveling up during the time I was back home, and realized it benefited me if he used it, as it meant I didn’t have to pay airport parking. Also, it benefited him because he didn’t have to pay for a rental car.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Davis: On a macro level, we base out of airport hub locations. We see larger airports as our target. On a micro level, a hub is a central place that brings people together, which is essentially what we are doing with these vehicles: locating in the key spot to facilitate the exchange of vehicles matching dormant vehicles with people that need them.
SUB: You recently launched your first hub at LAX. Why was this a particularly good time to launch the service?
Davis: It’s an exciting time; we are right on the brink of this movement towards a shared economy and we are seeing the public embrace of the concept expanding dramatically right now. We are just in the middle of summer travel season at L.A., which is the right time to be in business, and L.A. is a car city, vastly spread out with poor public transportation options. It also has a budding startup industry—Silicon Beach—with an innovative population looking for new ways of living and conducting business.
SUB: Do you have plans to raise outside funding in the near future?
Davis: Not at the moment. We are solidly funded and have no plans to search for additional resources at this point.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Davis: Insurance and awareness. On the insurance front, there are almost no insurers willing to write on peer-to-peer car sharing companies—it is too new for them to have loss histories to be able to underwrite, and they are not fast-moving entities. Awareness is also tough because you have to attract not only the owners but also the renters. The owners need to be convinced that they have no financial risk; the renters need to become aware of us versus the multinational companies already established at airports.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Davis: After compensating the owner for the days rented on the vehicle, Hubber covers insurance and collects part of the remaining rental revenue.
SUB: What are your goals for Hubber over the next year or so?
Davis: We are focusing on a West Coast expansion and are working with favorable laws that enable sharing without risk for owners in California, Oregon and Washington. Our goal is to expand our services on a national level, at all major domestic airports in the U.S.
Hubber – www.drivehubber.com