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Peer-to-peer car rental: Drivy accelerates across Europe

Founded in 2010, Drivy’s web platform orchestrates car rental between individuals. Already the leader in France, this Paris Region startup now wants to establish itself in Europe, leveraging its Drivy Open smartphone unlocking technology.

€31 million to conquer Europe. In a nutshell, that’s the challenge investors set for the Drivy team with its latest round of funding in April 2016. It’s a big step for this startup, which made it to the spotlight based on a simple concept: why buy a car when you can borrow your neighbor’s? “Before I launched Drivy, I lived on a street in Marseille where two families shared the same car,” said Paulin Dementhon, Drivy’s founder. “They had bought it together and shared expenses. I realized that, most of the time, cars sit unused.”

To test his idea, the entrepreneur started with an initial “homebrew” site with pages where car owners and renters could get in touch. A few months later, he got a call from a furious user who had rented his car several times through the website, but then found himself in a mess after an incident with a customer. “That day, I got a real tongue-lashing from the user, but, deep inside, I was happy because that phone call proved that my idea was valid,” smiled Dementhon.

A dense network, the secret to success

The entrepreneur then went into high gear, designing a high-quality internet platform to connect car owners and drivers who live in the same region. He also began providing insurance coverage for renters. This feature, reassuring to users, took him nearly a year of negotiation. It wasn’t easy to find a company willing to insure a fleet of private vehicles. Finally, the Allianz Group took charge of the insurance, as part of a global partnership.

And now, six years after its debut, Drivy’s figures speak for themselves: 38,000 cars available in 5 European countries, 1 million users and 71 employees. What’s behind this remarkable success? According to Camille Henry, Drivy’s communication manager, the key is the network’s density. “The success of a marketplace is often based on the same principle: as supply increases, so does demand. This leads to increased supply. To launch this virtuous circle, you must reach a critical mass of supply. And we reached it faster than our competitors.” This growth has been reinforced by the 2015 acquisition of Buzzcar, previously number three in the French market.

Innovating and expanding internationally

To grow its customer base, Drivy’s team also concentrated on making user’s lives easier: dematerializing the contract, accelerating the reservation process, etc. And even better, in December 2015, the startup launched a smartphone-based rental service, dubbed Drivy Open. “This is an internally-developed technology. We install a digital module in private cars,” explained Henry. “It allows the renter to do everything from his smartphone. He reserves a vehicle, and then, on the day of the rental, he geolocalizes it, and finally unlocks the car, without ever meeting the owner.” More flexible, quicker, Drivy Open has been available since mid-2016 in Berlin and Barcelona. A total of nearly 400 cars have been equipped by the startup’s technicians.

With its figures doubling annually, Drivy is now seeking to maximize its presence on European roads. Last year, the site became market leader in Germany with 10,000 cars available and launched its service in Spain with a fleet of 1,000 vehicles. This summer, Drivy set up shop in Austria and Belgium, with about 300 cars in each country. The startup already has another country targeted before the end of 2016, and several more in 2017. The new investors in this startup can feel reassured: Drivy is on track to meet its challenge.

 

Drivy in brief

Headquarters: Paris
Headcount: 71 employees
Revenue: not disclosed
Presence: France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Belgium
Fleet: 38,000 cars
Users: 1 million
Rental days: 1.5 million since the site’s creation