According to Mercer’s cost of living city ranking report, Singapore is listed as one of the top 10 countries in 2021 that is expensive to live in. With owning and maintaining cars being seen as an additional cost to the already high cost of living, it gave rise to a sharing economy. Drive lah is a platform that allows people to rent out their cars or rent cars on an hourly, daily, or monthly basis with comprehensive insurance coverage, and users are able to lock/unlock cars using their phones.
In this month’s startup conversations, we caught up with the Co-founder of Drive lah, Dirk-Jan Ter Horst. Read on to find out more about his entrepreneurship journey.
Thank you for taking the time to do this sharing! What sparked you to quit your job and venture into entrepreneurship?
Dirk-Jan: It has always been a dream to start my own company. Over lunch in September 2018, me and my Co-founder, Gaurav Singhal exchanged experiences about renting cars and came up with the idea to start Drive lah. We saw and still see a massive opportunity to improve mobility in ever-growing cities by making better use of idle assets.
With the surge of Covid-19 cases in Singapore and worldwide, how has it affected the car-sharing industry? How badly did it affect Drive lah and how did you overcome it?
Dirk-Jan: It may sound strange but Covid-19 has given our business a tailwind. Both sides of our platform have seen growth throughout the Circuit Breaker (CB) in 2020.
From the supply side, we saw that more people signed up to rent out their cars. The most heard reason was that they used their cars even less now with Work From Home (WFH).
On the demand side, we saw that people were looking for some sort of personal space when they move around. That meant that when demand for ride-hailing reduced, demand for car rental and car-sharing increased. Within the “cars-on-demand” space we are very well positioned as our cars belong to car owners that keep their cars clean and sanitized. They do that to protect themselves as well.
Drive lah was recently launched in Australia. Why is Australia the next country that you have chosen to launch after Singapore?
Dirk-Jan: We launched in Australia under the brand Drive mate (www.drive-mate.com.au). Our idea is to build a business in the region so that people that travel from one country to the other can rent other people’s cars conveniently. The main reasons for us to expand our business to Australia are the size and growth of the car rental and sharing market, the supportive regulatory environment, and healthy margins to run and grow the business.
How does Drive lah attract users to have recurring rentals after renting a car once on your platform?
Dirk-Jan: Most important is ensuring a great customer experience. We do that by using our proprietary technology stack and data to support our hosts in becoming the best service providers they can be.
We provide keyless access through the app and track driving behavior. This data feeds into our AI data engine to predict risk per trip and price it accordingly. This keeps our platform extremely safe and our hosts appreciate this.
Together we continuously raise the bar when it comes to putting the customer first. For example, our customer success rates, i.e. the percentage of customers that get a car for every booking request hovers around 97% for the last 6 months.
Gaurav (L) & Dirk-Jan (R), Co-Founders of Drive lah
Fundraising is not an easy feat. Having successfully raised a pre-series A round, what are some of the challenges that both of you faced along the way? How did both of you overcome it? With the funds raised, where do you see Drive lah down the road?
Dirk-Jan: Fundraising is not easy, but having great traction certainly helps. We did grow 10x since our seed round, which was 18 months before we closed our pre-A round. Like many other start-ups, we faced challenges in convincing people that this innovative model would take off in the Asia Pacific if executed well. Investors have the difficult task to assess the strength of the founders, current business foundation and estimate how big the market can become. Especially the last part can be hard for a company that is disrupting the traditional car rental market with a business model that is new in the region. Will people rent out their cars in Singapore and Southeast Asia was a common question. The answer is yes and we have been fortunate to prove that.
Now with over US$4M invested in the business we plan to:
- Continue our growth in Singapore
- Enter some adjacent segments
- Expand geographically
All these require a strong product backbone and a great team. We have added great people to our team with experience in leading marketplace businesses in our region, and together we are building the best-shared mobility company in the world.
Drive lah pitched at Angelcentral earlier this year. How was the experience of pitching and raising funds through AngelCentral?
Dirk-Jan: We were honored to present at AngelCentral and happy that we had convinced investors to join us on our journey.
A final question before we end, do you think that the mobility sharing economy is the future (as compared to the past where the option is mainly just purchasing)?
Dirk-Jan: Absolutely. These are two forces that are accelerating this movement from ownership to usership:
Demand from generation Y and millennials. Experiences are much more important than owning assets for them.
Governments want to keep cities liveable and accessible for all, and that is why car ownership is discouraged. We see restrictions and price increases for car owners across the globe and this is expected to continue. Car ownership in urban areas thus becomes expensive and useless. Car sharing, and especially the peer-to-peer variant, makes much more sense for your own wallet, the city, and the environment.
About Drive lah
Drive lah is a platform that allows people to rent out their cars or rent cars on an hourly, daily, or monthly basis with comprehensive insurance coverage, and users are able to lock/unlock cars using their phone.