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March 02, 2012

Car Sharing: Disrupt Hertz (please!)

The car-sharing companies that I have met are quick to point out the size of the rental car market, and the number of hours our cars are just sitting around, waiting to be driven. And by any analysis, it’s certainly a huge market. Tapping into that market could be a huge opportunity - but there are challenges. For one thing, we know that it’s really hard to change consumer habits. And creating a liquid market for cars in many small locations is a big challenge, too. If I need a car, but there isn’t one available where I am, the model has failed. If I have a car sitting around ready to rent, but there’s nobody there to rent it, the model has failed.

Here’s an idea for a solution that I’d love to see someone try. You’d hijack an established consumer habit - airport car rental - and get around the supply-and-demand problem by focusing on a few major airports to start.

Short-term parking is always much easier to get to than long-term parking, and it’s often easier to access than rental cars. I travel a lot, and the short-term lots are always full. Business people use them to save time, and expense the cost. Families use them because it’s too much hassle to schlep the kids and the luggage all the way to long-term parking.

But short-term parking is costing me (or my business) $35+ a day, and my car is just sitting around. What if I could rent out my car while I’m away? I’d save the cost of parking, and make some extra money.

Here’s how it could work: When I park my car in short-term parking, I enter the location in an app (as a bonus, it’ll help me remember where I parked). I also enter how long I’ll be away. The worst case scenario for me is, I pay for parking the same as always. In the best case, I cut my parking costs and earn some money on the side.

When you want to rent a car, you can book it ahead of time. If there’s no car-share available when you arrive, your reservation automatically gets kicked over to a traditional car rental company. (This doesn’t hurt our business’s bottom line, because we don’t have to pay for reservations or for not showing up for a reservation.) In the worst-case scenario for you, you rent a car from a national chain, just like you always used to. In the best case, you rent a car parked in a more convenient location that’s probably better than the cars offered by the national chain.

What do you think? What other challenges do you see with this approach? What solutions can you think of?  Interested...let's talk!

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Alex Kinnier

Alex Kinnier is a Venture Captial Partner at NEA. He's an Xoogler, a passionate product developer (from ad servers to air conditioners to Febreze) and a fan of NYC pizza. He is a father of 2 angels.

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