When Ahmed Mhiri enrolled in Founder Institute Paris, he didn’t just want to launch a company. He wanted to launch a global company.
Three and a half months later, Ahmed’s startup TravelCar emerged from the program. Often described as the Airbnb of car rentals, here’s how it works: when one person needs to park their car at the airport or train station while they goes on a trip, another person can pay to use the car. It's a win-win situation because the owner of the car won't have to pay for the car to sit in expensive parking and the person renting will save up to 70% of what they'd spend at a traditional car rental company.
Equipped with years of project leadership and engineering experience - along with the tools, knowledge, and connections that he’d acquired at FI - Ahmed still had a long journey ahead of him. Like many companies, TravelCar began as a fairly local endeavor, setting up shop in Paris and a few other major cities in mainland Europe. Over the next few years, traction came quickly. Customers flocked to TravelCar and the user base grew to over 300,000, capturing a large share of the European market. Additionally, the small operation had grown to over 400 car agencies, spread across 30 countries.
While TravelCar was expanding rapidly, Ahmed cut time out of his busy, hectic schedule to help the next wave of entrepreneurs. Since 2015, Mhiri has served as a director and mentor at the Founder Institute, eager to foster entrepreneurship in France while his company hit wild milestones.
Still, though, Ahmed knew that his company had only just begun to blossom. A portion of the Founder Institute’s curriculum focuses on partnerships, where mentors are brought in to teach founders the art of crafting a crucial partnership. Ahmed recognized the importance of that particular lesson, and he knew that his company was only one strategic partnership away from going global.
Enter two companies: French car manufacturer PSA group (known for the Peugeot), and MAIR (an insurance company). When Ahmed shared his company’s global vision with PSA and MAIR, they were impressed, and pleased to see that Ahmed’s aspirations aligned with their own. After a period of negotiation, a partnership was born. PSA and MAIR provided TravelCar with an investment of over $16M, fully endorsing Ahmed’s efforts to conquer the global market. In fact, TravelCar announced the partnership simultaneously with news that they were moving into the United States. SFO and LAX were declared as the first two destinations in the United States where TravelCar would operate. Additionally, the company established a TravelCar USA office, doubling down on their efforts to bring cheap car rentals to the huge U.S. market.
However, TravelCar aren’t alone in their expansion effort. Here at Founder Institute Headquarters in Palo Alto, our partnership team has continued working with Ahmed and TravelCar, offering our knowledge of the local ecosystem and our network of connections. This is all part of our own goal to provide unparalleled post-program support.
TravelCar is not the first company of its kind. In fact, it is very similar to FlightCar which started in San Francisco, expanded to twelve U.S. airports, and then suddenly closed after blowing through $40 million. Mhiri isn't discouraged though. He's banking on the company continuing its global expansion and becoming a one-stop-shop for ground transportation.
Only time will tell how well TravelCar will fare against other car sharing companies such as Turo, Getaround, Zipcar and car2go. Each service has its own advantages and TravelCar hopes to appeal to people who want to make money while they are on vacation rather than spending it. The fact that TravelCar recently took over its competitor Tripndrive in Paris could be a very good sign of success to come in the future. It seems that Americans will remain dependent on cars and continue to be both concerned with the environment and in search of ways to make money. These factors work in TravelCar's favor. If the enthusiasm of the investors is any indication of how well TravelCar will do in the United States, they very well could become the leading car sharing company in the world.