11. May 2012–
Of all the startups that took part in Heureka!'s speed-pitching session this week, it's probably safe to say only Carzapp parked a prototype outside...
Carzapp is about to go live with a new peer-to-peer carsharing service - think of it as Airbnb for rides rather than beds - complete with mobile apps (starting with Android and iOS), rental car insurance and Zappkit, a hardware solution to overcome the pesky problem of needing to hand over keys.
For ease, not much beats it. Those looking to rent a car - sign up and search for cars nearby. Once the car's owner okays the request (manually or automatically), renters can use Zappkit and their smartphones to unlock it and drive away.
The full service will go live once Zappkit finishes its certification, hopefully by the end of summer. "We'll start in Berlin with up to 100 cars and then we'll go public," co-founder Oliver Lünstedt told VentureVillage. "If you don't have a smartphone, you can't do the keyless rental - you can still use Carzapp by meeting the owner."
Carzapp is already partnering with Renault, Peugeot, Vodafone, E.ON and Capgemini in an electric car pilot programme in Berlin-Brandenburg which is part of a nationwide bid to boost electric vehicle development in Germany. Users can lease an electric car under favourable conditions for up to three years. When not using the car themselves, they can earn money back by renting it out with Carzapp.
Lünstedt and co-founders Yannick Feige and Sahil Sachdeva started working together just nine months ago, after meeting at an event at Berlin's Technical University. Part of the next stage will involve securing funding for sales, marketing and salaries. The Carzapp team is now up to six people and is planning at least two new hires this month.
Peer-to-peer carsharing - rising trend?
Peer-to-peer carsharing offers some pretty enticing benefits. Car owners earn money back to counter rising fuel costs; renters get acccess without the cost and hassle of owning a car. Tamycar, Autonetzer, Rent 'n' Roll, Nachbarschaftsauto are already trying it out in Germany. In the United States, several players are competing for market share including Getaround, which won last year's TechCrunch's Disrupt NYC startup competition.
All business models come with key challenges - in this case, ensuring security and making sure cars come back in good condition. Carzapp users will need to register and show ID before they're "set free" to open cars via smartphone, Lünstedt explained. To stop thieves breaking in and driving away with spare keys, car immobilisers are installed in a different place for each car and must also be disabled via Zappkit.
Carzapp also includes a user rating system and comprehensive rental car insurance, provided by the hour to help keep costs down.
If Airbnb, 9flats and Wimdu work for peer-to-peer private home rental, Carzapp and peers should be able to grow a similar market for cars - especially since fuel costs are only set to increase. And how did Carzapp's speed-pitching session at Heureka! go? "Perfect," Lünstedt says. Watch this space.
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