One startup, one story: what if car owners rented out their own cars?

How streets littered with empty parked vehicles could be a thing of the past thanks to a new car rental market. Let’s meet Drivy.

Buying and owning a car can be very expensive, yet these fast depreciating assets often sit idle in front of our houses. Paulin Dementhon thought there must be a way to transform cars from resource drainers into asset generators.

On the street where he was living in Marseille, three families shared one car – splitting running costs with the help of an Excel file. He became obsessed by all the useless cars clogging up our cities. What a waste of resources! Why was car-sharing not a more common thing?

With zero digital experience, Paulin set up a website that allowed people to advertise their cars, or their need for one. One day a user telephoned Paulin to say that he’d rented his car out ten times, but he now had a problem: someone had damaged his vehicle.

At this moment Paulin realized how useful the service was – and how much more useful it could be with a little more attention. He spent the best part of a year talking with insurance companies and setting up a proper website, launching Voiturelib at the end of 2010 (it would later become Drivy when the service went international).

Offered office space by the founders of carpooling service BlaBlaCar, Paulin moved to Paris. Once there, he quickly noticed most people don’t need or own a car – although having one occasionally for weekend getaways, holidays or supermarket shopping would be useful. The popularity of car clubs and Autolib’, the city’s nascent electric car sharing service, convinced Paulin (and his early investors) that he was onto something big.

Paulin was still fielding calls from people using the service, fixing problems wherever he might be (celebrating the New Year, or on the top of a mountain), before Nicolas Mondollot joined the adventure, taking care of the technical side. An angel funding round at the end of 2011 enabled Drivy to recruit an operations team, and launch its mobile app.

Today, Drivy is the leading car rental platform in Europe, covered since 2014 by insurance giant Allianz. With 40,000 cars registered on its network, renting a Drivy car is now easier and cheaper than using traditional car rental companies. From the outset, Paulin wanted Drivy to be as flexible as possible. You want a big car on Tuesday and a smaller vehicle on Thursday? No problem.

Drivy has also found a technical fix that spares users from the hassle of exchanging keys. With Drivy Open, you can open the car door from your smartphone via the Drivy app. Paulin had long dreamed of the possibility, investing in two years of R&D to develop the technology.

Available in France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Austria, Drivy now has over a million users. This rapid growth has seen the team increase from twelve people 18 months ago to 83 today. For environmental, congestion and financial reasons, Drivy expects the popularity of car ownership to fall, particularly in cities. At the same time, people still need occasional access to a car – which means demand for their service will grow.

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