Startup Space Perspective : Drivezy
4th Nov 2017 20:12 Zeeshan, Simran, AnshumanTweet
Drivezy, the drive that started with an accident, accelerated by Google in the maiden batch of the Launchpad Accelerator program in 2016, and was boosted later by the renowned American seed accelerator, Y Combinator. Let’s take a trip on the road to a successful entrepreneurship with Hemant Sah (Co-Founder and CTO, Drivezy) briefing about the journey from JustRide to Drivezy and how they received the international acclaim. Let’s experience the thrill of a startup led by a team of 5 ep (Entrepreneurpower).
Source : dinterview
Drivezy (formerly, JustRide), which started with just eight cars in April 2015, the company now offers about 900+ cars on hire. Brief us about your story and growth from aggregator model to market place model.
The idea was incubated around the end of 2014, We started in Mumbai with only one player in the market Zoom Cars. The best way to incubate is to
“Do something very different from any other”
Luckily, we got funded from an investor for eight luxury cars, which we then started renting at a very cheap price of ₹250 per hour. Driving a BMW 3 series for this price gained mass attention making it a way to cut through the noise and making our brand a buzz in Mumbai and Powai.
After the PoC(Proof of Concept), there was an increase in demand for self rentals. Raising a fund amounting close to a million from an angel investor, we added more than 200 cars. We then started with three simultaneous launches in Bangalore, Pune and Gurgaon, with Bangalore giving the best mileage.
In Early 2016, an investor proposed our name for the Google Accelerator Programme. We have had to appear for the interviews, which we cracked. The programme aimed to help startups from emerging countries in the early growth stage through investing money without pondering about equity and also providing resources.
Furthermore, we were fortunate enough to get selected by Y Combinator later, which acted as the Howard for our startup. The training pivoted our aggregator model into more of a marketplace model where others too can place their cars.
Investors from US, Japan and Europe showed the zeal and responded pretty well making us stable and sufficient to add 100-200 assets every month. At present, we are well established in 6 cities with close to 1500 assets.
What was your strategy while approaching investors? How did you gain the much needed trust factor for a Startup?
When we started, we weren’t a brand. So, approaching individuals for investment was difficult due to obvious trust issues on a company not even a year old. No one was willing to take the risk of investing their savings in us.
Accordingly, we targeted bigger vendors having high balance sheets, who were void of drivers to deploy cars because of the raised bar by Ola and Uber drivers. We convinced them to deploy 200-300 cars.
Later, as we became a brand backed by YC and Google, and also as the money was flowing in good and branding was there, so people began trusting us.
Your team is quite diverse varying from ECE, Chem, Mech. How did you all came together for JustRide and what according to you is the best way to form a team in pursuit of entrepreneurship?
We have a heterogeneous combination of branch - we don’t look for branch we look for talent and talent can come in any branch.
Source : Drivezy Team
Talking about us, we had been the festival secretary and had the jolly experience of working together. Also, we were indulged in startups before Drivezy. We (me and Aishwarya) started in 2009, Support Gurukul, where we trained students from colleges around Allahabad. Technical skills like web development, server deployment, network design and many more.
Referring to the balance we had, one was good in technical, the other was pro in team management while the third was the Sheldon Cooper of cars. Similarly, others had their own domains.
When you are doing business, you need related people. We were five people from five different domains and each one is expert of their domain. If you have to worry just about a particular thing, you'll excel much better. We, therefore, owe our excellence to our diversity.
How do you think an aspiring entrepreneur should go about validating his/her idea?
Validation of idea is all about persistence. You won’t get a validated idea on the very first day. Every idea is awesome. You just need to show perseverance, dedication, hard work, and the ability to handle criticism.
There is no fixed formula; even if you are 100% sure about the product, 99% people may reject your idea. One needs to refine the product/service keeping in mind the criticism and reviews, and then will you get a marketable product.
“Few things click earlier, others take time. It’s all about timing and vision”
When working on a startup you look for a team, and then an idea. A good team has the potential to convert any idea into a great company.
Why the name Drivezy?
There is no interesting story behind the naming, only a very well thought of change we did. JustRide sounded more of a local brand and once we were in YC (Y Combinator), we wanted to be a global brand. Drivezy sounded better; also we could get the trademark and the copyrights.
Not only have you been backed by something as big as google but also Y Combinator? How different or similar were the two experiences?What were their individual contribution to your growth?
Being the technical guy I feel that google has helped us immensely, we are young entrepreneurs - we needed someone senior to put us on the right path. It’s all about the good coach who can bring you on the correct path in a short time else even though you’ll come on the right path but it would take your valuable time and money.
Google made sure we are technically sound and provided us with good resources whenever required. YC refined our idea and taught us what sells and what not; that way we knew what works and what doesn't.
The normal process which roughly takes close to 2 Years was achieved in a short duration of 3 months. We got in touch with quite a few experts like the founder of gmail, airbnb, quora and many more. We were also in touch with the greats of Silicon Valley which was possible only because of this incubation. We became capable of approaching as an individual; being a YC graduate and Google graduate, dropping a mail or message would let us get in contact with anyone. Expansion of network, exposure to good startups made sure we reach a level more competitive and ensured our prosperity. In Silicon Valley, people are not scared to share their experiences about the idea that didn’t work, what to do or not to do. Being boastful about success and not sharing failures is not being honest with self which is not a practice an entrepreneur should follow.
Source : NextBigWhat
What is your strategy on fending off/dealing with all this competition like ZoomCar, Carzonrent and also indirect competition from Ola Rental and Ubers Hire?
“Competition is better for market, competition is better for us”.
The moment we are lagging behind somewhere that is the time we pull our socks up as now we need to be better. We take competition positively and we like it when somebody tells us if we are not doing good, if we feel there is something we are lagging behind we ensure that we put the pedal to the metal. We have a plan, we see the areas where we can improve, and most of the times removal of the source of issue fixes the company’s engine.
But still there are few things one can't fix, one of our competitor has twice the size of inventory compared to ours. We can't close the gap in one day but with persistence we know we’ll achieve the fate.
Our growth is far higher than any other startups in our space, We started with 8 cars in April, 2015 and after 26 months we have presence in 5 countries, with 1500 assets and good GMV(Gross Merchandise Volume).“If you see no competition you’ll become lazy and startup is not a place to be lazy”
Any bumpy ride story you wish to share that came as an unforgettable experience on your journey of entrepreneurship?
In 2016 after we went to google there was a time when we fell short of cash even though there were few investors ready to back us but we got greedy, as we thought that post google we’ll get good valuation so why to dilute equity beforehand.
Our valuation did improve but this was the time when we weren't able to pay our employees, we took care of guys who were living hand to mouth like guys involved in operations. But tech team and other guys in the office were ready to take a small part of the salary as they knew we were in the growth phase. Even in this state the trust factor of the employees didn’t stumble.
Post google YC happened, making us more greedy regarding the valuation. The best part was the positive cash flow as our rental business was doing pretty good. Money was sufficient to pay for operations, only thing impacting was the salary - to encounter this we pulled internal money.
People usually get happy when they get raise,bonus but our employees were happy [even] when they received 30% or 40% of the salary but never did anyone think about leaving the company. That was the lowest moment in our company and now when I reminisce that was the best time owing to the bonding and the confidence we had as a team.
“Every cofounder has confidence in their company but what matters is if the same vision is shared by the employees, if they have the confidence that is when the company rises and I believe that right now we are at this position. May be I’m the face of the company but 20+ people are working behind me so that what I boast of is being ensured,” CTO Hemant Shah, on Team.
Source : entrackr
The company has often boasted about its technology backbone — the ‘Smart Vehicle Technology’, or SVT. What kind of response have you received regarding this technology? What was your business’s original mission? How has that mission evolved in the time since?
We started with self-drive-rental-cars but there wasn't anything special in it as many people were doing it. So, in order to ensure a long and smooth ride on the highway of entrepreneurship we differentiated us from others. We had full faith on our ability to prove mettle in technology. we had history of working with how a car behaves. Under our first startup from the college, Support Gurukul, we used to do the analysis of technical specifications of a vehicle for a car company which gave us exposure to the concept of working of car. Along with its optimum state and other factors and all these experiences we incorporated into Drivezy.
Amit Sahu who was in HGID (Honda Genbetsu India), was the guy behind the idea on how the mechanics work and I along with my team were the technical implementor of the same for the analysis. Every car has an OBD (On-board diagnostics) port through which we get a lot of information about how good a car is driven and many more. In order to assess the drivers, we need to be confident enough for who would be receiving the car and that confidence is ensured using the Drivezy score.
Apart from that there are multiple activities like immobilizing, tracking, using machine learning there are things we can predict regarding the car maintenance and it’s features. SVT is something that can't be explained by words but is something that goes behind the engine to make sure the platform is good. There are 14 critical alarms, 24+ behaviour of the car to understand how the car is being driven.
At present we are able to accurately do 90% of things we planned on day 1.
The Startup is backed by notable entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley, including, Justin Kan and Paul Buchheit. What is your methodology while approaching an Investor, What do you look for in an investor ?
There is no set of defined rules in the book of approaching investors. One advantage of being accelerated at Y Combinator was that we got to apply through it as most of silicon valley entrepreneurs are part time partners with Y Combinator. So we don’t need to sell anything new. We sell what we do. Investors do bring a lot of value to the busines.
However, it is not just the money but the experience that matters.
One thing that should never come across an entrepreneur’s mind is “ego”. No matter how big you become or how great your startup is, there is no place for ego. Whenever they invest, they look for long term usefulness of the company. They don’t believe on money making business. Even if a startup is doing good economically, it may not receive the investment. As they only put money on fixed segments where they have idea of how that business works. Therefore, no matter how good it sounds, they might not invest on that business.
USP(Unique Selling Proposition) is we make sure what they get to know about our company also includes the things done in the background and they get appreciated. Investors do value the technology we are bringing in and the way we are innovating.
90% of the startups fail. Do you think there are some distinctive qualities which make the other 10% capable of creating a significant difference and hence founding a successful startup?
“Persistence and Belief is what drives the startup to success.”
Balance between the heart and the mind is a necessity. If you feel that a particular thought will be good, move towards it but do analyze it properly before you make a decision. Once you have made a decision, stand firm on it and don’t let it go easily. Gut feeling is not always correct - educated guess might be better, use your upper half and never bring your ego into the business. “Don’t do it just because you have to do it.”