HiyaCar offers a smarter, more environmentally friendly way for people in Britain to hire the 10 million cars rented here every year.
Graeme Risby and Rob Larmour met aged 16 behind the meat counter in their local supermarket. Years later they met at a summer fete and the idea for HiyaCar was born.
Business Advice caught up with co-founder Larmour of HiyaCar to find out where it all started and how they’re using technology advancements to benefit their business.
Who are you and what is your business?
I am Graeme Risby and myself and Rob Larmour are the co-founders of peer-to-peer car-sharing app ‘HiyaCar’ (an Airbnb for cars) which offers a smarter, more convenient way for people in the UK to access a car when they need one.
How did you come up with the concept?
I am a bit of a car-fiend and at the time, working in the City – I knew that there were lots of people who needed access to a car in London but didn’t need to own one. I’ve always been conscious that your car is your most expensive liability and I wanted to change this by turning my car into an asset.
With the help of e-commerce expert (and friend Rob Larmour), we realised that the obstacle to unlocking the value in people’s cars was simple: an insurance policy that allows owners to make money and covers their car when on Hiya. We then set about solving the ‘key handover’ issue which was that people wanted to hire a car on-demand but although the cars were not being used, the owners were not available to handover the key as they were at work etc. This is where the idea for QuickStart was born.
QuickStart is our keyless technology– it allows a hirer to access the car they have booked without having to collect keys from the owner and to use their smartphone to open the car. If needed, HiyaCar can also step in to remotely revoke access at any time, adding reassurance for the owners.
What was key in terms of getting started?
The idea of turning your car into an asset was key for us when getting started, as a lot of people don’t realise how much of a liability their car can be. The average car in London is idle for around 23 hours a day so it was hugely important for us to show how we can unlock all these unused cars to create a smarter, less wasteful way for people to get around.
Additionally, getting the right team on board was crucial – we completed our first Hiya and hired our first employee in 2016 and since then have watched HiyaCar evolve into a friendly, living community and a team of 17 amazingly driven people. Every member of our team shares the same enthusiasm and passion for the brand as Rob and I do, it becomes infectious in the office and keeps the motivation going consistently.
What makes the business unique?
We believe our brand and product is generally a unique offering. As mentioned earlier on, what really makes our car-sharing platform stand out is the keyless technology we offer with QuickStart. This tech gives car owners the freedom and flexibility to make their vehicles available for sharing safely, with anyone at any time, without having to physically hand anything over, whilst members can access cars on-demand through their smartphone.
This game-changing technology massively simplifies and speeds up the process of car sharing and removes the barriers that have often hindered its take-up in the past. We can already see how the technology will accelerate the pace at which peer-to-peer car sharing becomes a mainstream behaviour in London, just as ride-hailing and home sharing have done in the past few years.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?
Whilst consumer attitudes towards car sharing are changing, we know that we still have a bit of a way to go until car sharing becomes an everyday solution, so it was really important that we were able to gain people’s trust. In another industry first, we also developed a unique partnership with AXA to guarantee insurance cover owners and drivers. The AXA coverage supersedes the owner’s policy during a hiya and is valid for work usage too. It provides complete peace of mind to all parties, again helping to accelerate the adoption of car sharing.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
This is a tricky one, as mentioned earlier, I’m super proud of our team, the people we have working on the HiyaCar project are second to none and it makes me very proud that HiyaCar can attract such talent. I think our biggest achievement has been to build a community of over 50,000 people in such a short space of time, our fleet of cars is already larger than companies like Zipcar and we’ve only just started. We help owners make a lot of money and hirers save a lot of money, every day our platform gives people the freedom to have a better life.Describe your marketing technique – what strategies have you used?
We’ve spent a lot of time developing the best product so our members have a great experience and then go on to talk about HiyaCar to their friends. Referral and word of mouth work best for us, our Trustpilot score is 9/10 and far better than any other car hire platform or traditional car hire company in the UK. We’ve put some money behind PPC which we will continue to do.
In five years’ time, I will be…
Leading the most exciting community and marketplace in the UK, which is number 1 when it comes to giving people freedom at their fingertips via peer-to-peer car hire.
Who are your business heroes and why?
I don’t really have business heroes – I do love reading and learning from other entrepreneurs. I don’t see myself being a serial entrepreneur and would much rather lead and grow one company for many, many years – people like Jeff Bezos are leaders that I look to for inspiration.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Remain focused and go with your gut instincts. Persistence and hard work do pay off, so don’t be discouraged if at first, the answer is a ‘no’. Genuine passion is essential for any business… Make sure the service is something that you would use in your day to day life, if it isn’t, why should anyone else?
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.