Irish startup builds the Airbnb for cars

The best ideas often emerge from difficult experiences. Fleet is one such idea.

What sparks great business ideas? Truly disruptive ideas often emerge from bad experiences. They are solutions to problems. In the case of Maurice Sheehy, his idea sprang to life following a horrendous time when booking a rental car.

Why couldn’t it be like Airbnb?

On a holiday to the Canaries a few years ago, Sheehy and his friends booked a house on Airbnb. They had also booked a rental car.
The Airbnb experience was smooth and seamless, he says. “However, when it came to the car booking, that was a nightmare. We were hours waiting for it to happen and then we were upsold stuff we didn’t need, and it cost us double what we had thought we should pay. When we got to the Airbnb, we noticed the owner’s car parked outside. It remained there all week. We talked about this and said wouldn’t it be great if we could have got a taxi to the house and then rented the owner’s car when we needed it? Why couldn’t our rental car experience be like our Airbnb experience? The car rental company left a very sour taste in my mouth, and that’s when the seed was sown for what is now Fleet.”
Sheehy, an entrepreneur from Wicklow, who owns the Pure Fitness gyms in Wicklow town and Arklow, describes his new business as the ‘Airbnb for cars’.

So, what’s the business model?

People who sign up for the service can rent other people’s cars and list their own cars for rent. The idea is simple – people can have their cars make money for them while they are not in use. Garages can also list any cars they may be struggling to sell. All cars must be taxed and have an NCT. The Fleet app is designed to cut out the hassle normally associated with renting a car.

“We’ve taken steps to ensure that every part of the process completely protects the owner’s car.”

What’s in it for car owners and users?

A business model like this has never been tried before in Ireland. The company could be classified as a disrupter as it aims to turn the traditional rental car market on its head. Similar companies in the US like Turo and GetAround are currently attracting a lot of attention from investors.

What are the current pain points?

The two main issues for Fleet right now are acquiring funding and getting more cars onto the platform. There is a significant difference between the number of people looking to rent cars and the number of cars that are listed. Fleet is currently sourcing funding from venture capital firms and is using contacts in the industry to help them expand. This funding is needed so it can grow and advertise to get more cars listed on the platform.


What about insurance, how does that work?

One of the biggest hurdles Fleet had to overcome was the issue of insurance. Sheehy managed to strike a deal with Axa. “It’s been great working with Axa who have been very progressive in their approach. They see the future of the sharing economy and Fleet offers another business vertical for them.”

“We see Ireland as the perfect incubator for our model. It’s the ideal size and it’s self-contained, with a booming tourism sector.”

How does the business make money?

Fleet takes a cut of the rental income as well as through fees on the insurance and payment methods.

Fleet rent a car

What are the safety issues?

“We take safety very seriously,” says Sheehy. “Many people are wary about sharing their car with a stranger, and we’ve taken steps to ensure that every part of the process completely protects the owner’s car. Firstly, Fleet is designed as a ground-up community-based platform. Owners and drivers give each other reviews and communicate directly with in-app messaging. If you take liberties with someone’s car, you’ll quickly find that there are no cars available for you on the platform.”

Next steps?

“We’ve been operating successfully in the Republic of Ireland since our launch in June, and the app is now about to go live in Northern Ireland,” says Sheehy. “We see Ireland as the perfect incubator for our model. It’s the ideal size: self-contained, with a booming tourism sector, and it has the highest smartphone usage in the Western world. Our sights are also firmly set on international expansion, starting with mainland Britain, where we plan to begin trials early next year.”

Article by Greg Corcoran.