Wednesday, October 7, 2015
How Skurt Is Hoping To Revolutionize The Rental Car Experience
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
If you've ever flown into Los Angeles International Airport—or pretty much any other, major airport--on a busy, holiday weekend, you might be familiar with the sometime hours long lines at rental car counters, horrible customer service, and companies looking to nickel and dime you with all kinds of add on insurance and options. Enter Los Angeles startup Skurt (www.skurtapp.com), which launched yesterday, is hoping to change that experience into something completely different, by applying the on-demand model to car rentals. Skurt offers up a mobile app driven service which delivers a rental car to you at the curb, letting you bypass the huge hassle of rental car counters. We caught up with Skurt co-founder Harry Hurst ahead of the launch, to learn more. Hurst's fellow co-founders are Aaron Peck, and Josh Mangel.
Thanks for the time today! How does you app work?
Where did you get the idea to start the company?
Harry Hurst: I met my co-founders while on vacation in Los Angeles, through a mutual friend. We actually were at Atlantic recording studios, and we were just having a conversation, and started talking about how awful an experience it had been for me to rent a car. I've been an international traveler, and traveled a lot through my life, and I've always had incredibly bad experiences renting cars. That's how we came up with the idea. There just has not been anyone out there who is customer service focused, and on solving that problem with technology.
What is the background of you and your founders? /p>
Harry Hurst: I graduated from high school at 12 years old studying computer science. I had been really interested in technology from a very young age, and I also had started various small companies when I was young. I've always been a bit of an entrepreneur from a young age, and always doing things with businesses and technology. Josh was one of the youngest teens to enter to Ycombinator program. In terms of professional background, I've always been an entrepreneur, and ran a professional headhunting consultancy, and a strategic partnership consulting firm in finance before this company when I was in London. I'm from London, originally.
We've noticed a lot of entrepreneurs here in Los Angeles who originally were from the UK. Why is that you landed here?
Harry Hurst: In my case, it's because Los Angeles is the driving city. For this app, that made a lot of sense, because of the infrastructure here. Plus, our lead investor, Upfront Ventures, is based in Los Angeles, and it's always good to be near your investors, particularly in the beginning. We've gotten some incredible advice from them.
Car rentals are quite an established market, with some really big competition. How do you hope to make headway in that kind of market?
Harry Hurst: Our strategy, is we're going to grow quickly. We are the only company heavily, heavily focused on the customer experience and the booking experience, which is where all the competitors lack. It's quite archaic.
Why do you think those big, established companies have been so slow to adopt technology like yours?
Harry Hurst: What's interesting about the rental car market, is it is an oligopoly. Ninety five percent of the market is controlled by just three holding companies. There has been so much consolidation in this market, that it's now just Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise. Because of that, naturally, the customer experience and customer service has suffered.
We know you are starting at LAX and with LA, but what are your plans beyond that?
Harry Hurst: Right now, we're live in Los Angeles. You can book a car and use us today. We're at the airport for LAX, for anyone traveling into LAX. And, we are available by request, rolling out to the rest of Los Angeles. Our next city is San Francisco.
What has been the biggest challenge so far in starting the company?
Harry Hurst: Our biggest challenge, which I think is the case for any startup, is picking and creating a stronghold market. We've seen a lot of success here, and we're really excited about aggressively scaling out in Los Angeles. It's a challenge, but it's one we're up for.
Thanks, and good luck!