Entrepreneur: Rujul Zaparde
Business name: FlightCar
Years in business: 1.5
Website address: http://www.flightcar.com
When travelers need to drive themselves to the airport, they have two options: Get someone else to pick up the car while they're away, or pay for long-term parking while the car sits unused. Instead of seeing the latter situation as a problem, entrepreneurs Rujul Zaparde and Kevin Petrovic saw it as an opportunity to join in the growing sharing economy.
In 2012, the young founders, who are both under age 21, launched FlightCar. This members-only car-sharing service allows travelers to rent out their cars, which would otherwise just take up space in the airport parking lot. FlightCar operates at SFO, BOS and LAX airports, and plans to expand to other national airports with the help of investments from Ashton Kutcher, Alexis Ohanian, Ryan Seacrest and more.
Zaparde shared his startup's journey, its place in the sharing economy, and where he and Petrovic hope to take the company in the future. [MORE: In the 'Intimate Economy' We're All Potential Entrepreneurs]
Business News Daily: What problem were you hoping to solve when you started your business?
Rujul Zaparde: The massive inefficiency that exists at airports nationwide, and in the rest of the world. There are thousands of cars parked in long-term parking, and there are thousands of cars in Hertz's parking lot. FlightCar lets people parking at the airport rent their vehicles out to other approved traveling members. Members get free parking, a car wash, and get paid if their car is rented out. Every rental is insured up to $1 million, and every renter is pre-screened. Approved members renting a FlightCar get the lowest rental rates, guaranteed, with free insurance, free extras and no fees.
BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?
R.Z.: I don't think so. Only recently have people begun to embrace the sharing economy. Airbnb, of course, is the best example of this. Since we're a supply-constrained marketplace, the FlightCar model only works when there is a large subset of the population willing to lend their cars to others.
BND: What technologies have most helped your business?
R.Z.: All of our technology is in-house. We have an Uber-like system that auto-dispatches a driver to pick up the customer at the airport. The ability to track the customer's and the driver's location using GPS makes the process seamless.
BND: What technology can't you live without?
R.Z.: If we did not have systems that auto-assign owners' vehicles to renters, the entire process of allocating vehicles would be nearly impossible. When there are 100 reservations or more to fill and hundreds of cars, it's a challenge to match everything up. Of course, a good system can do this with ease.
BND: If you could hire one extra employee right now, what would you have that person do?
R.Z.: Manage the customer experience. We'd love to bring on board (and plan to in the near term) someone who has experience in the high-end hospitality industry and can improve all the touch points of a transaction. The details are key.
BND: What technology do you wish existed that doesn't?
R.Z.: If there were an affordable technology that would allow one to rent another traveler's car without the hassle of a key exchange, that would open a lot of doors in the peer-to-peer car-sharing industry.
BND: What technology do you think is most overrated?
R.Z.: The necessity of having a native Android/iPhone app for every possible service. For some companies, having a native app is relevant. But for a lot of other companies, a mobile site suffices. Unfortunately, most companies feel the urge to build something native.
BND: What's the most valuable non-tech skill an entrepreneur needs?
R.Z.: The ability to take risk. There would be no startups with no risk.
Originally published on Business News Daily.