TRY SOMETHING NEW
The key to better car hire
With Virtuo, you’ll never queue at the rental desk again.
Virtuo: Hassle-free Car Rental
Flexible, Premium Car Hire
You know all too well the frustrations of hiring a car. After hours trawling the web for deals, you arrive at your holiday destination and discover that the rental desk is actually outside the airport terminal, 10 minutes’ walk down the road.
After much wrangling, trying to avoid paying for extras, finally you get your car. And it’s not what you thought you had paid for.
“It’s such a long and painful process,” acknowledges Paris-based Karim Kaddoura, cofounder of Virtuo, an entirely app-based car rental service that aims to completely overhaul the car hire industry. “You always end up waiting an hour-and-a-half to get the keys. You have to sign paperwork that is very imprecise and, very much the biggest frustration of car rental, you thought you had rented a Fiat 500 but you’ve ended up with a van. It’s terrible.”
As people don’t want to own a car anymore, car transportation is going to be completely revolutionised
“It’s probably the only business that has never matched the customer’s expectation,” continues Kaddoura. “So much so that on the internet you see all the hatred for all those car rental companies.”
Kaddoura and his cofounder, Thibault Chassagne decided to set about reforming this process.
The pair met as postgraduate students in Paris in “entrepreneurship class” where they came up with the idea for their first business, Neowebcar – a French online car dealership, which they founded in 2009, aged 24, and sold in 2014.
“We were car rental power users and were frustrated ourselves,” says Kaddoura. “The big car hire companies are geniuses at operating fleets, but they have not understood the need to use tech to enhance the customer experience.”
This is where Virtuo comes in. Download the app and you have instant access to car hire. You register once, using your iPhone camera to upload your driving licence and taking a selfie to verify your identity. Then, choose your pickup location – from car parks at major train stations, airports and in city centres.
But “it’s on rental day that the magic happens,” says Kaddoura. You unlock your car using your phone, and it becomes your key for operating the car.
The damage report is all photo-based, so you can see exactly what nicks and scratches are already recorded, and upload your own if you find anything else to log.
And, explains Kaddoura: “We have a standardised fleet so in our case, the car you book is the car you get.” The compact model is the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or you can hire an SUV, the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Automatic transmission, navigation, rear view camera and CarPlay all come as standard, so there are no hidden extras.
“Why would we invoice you for navigation when it’s standard? Why do that to a customer? It’s crazy,” says Kaddoura.
Already successful in several cities across France, Virtuo expanded to Brussels at the beginning of 2018 and launched in London, with car pickup points at St Pancras International, Victoria, Waterloo, Marble Arch and Kensington. Rental costs an average of £49 per day, dependent on the season.
With a €7.5m (£6.6m) investment from London venture capital firm Balderton Capital, which has previously invested in major tech successes such as Lyst, Memrise and GoCardless, Virtuo has major expansion planned. “London is big because 70 per cent of people living in London don’t own a car anymore,” says Kaddoura. Then it’s across the UK and the rest of Europe and onto the US.
But Kaddoura sees a fascinating future in the motoring industry. “As people don’t want to own a car anymore, car transportation is going to be completely revolutionised. And the only way to go about it is to be tech oriented.”