Cars are a wonderful invention, but every day students at college campuses all across the country are struggling with car related issues. Whether it’s circling a parking lot for hours looking for a parking spot for class, paying for gas and other expenses or managing how to get around town without a car, car related problems are everywhere. In 2009, Uber introduced the world to the idea of peer to peer ridesharing, but now there is a brand new app that looks to take it a step further.
Lula, the brainchild of Matthew and Michael Vega-Sanz, is an app that allows individuals to rent each other’s cars for hours or days. The car owner sets the hourly rate with Lula receiving 25 percent of the transaction while also covering the drivers through an insurance similar to what AirBnB uses. All of this is done through the Lula app, with the set up process taking less than 5 minutes. The Tiger reached out to founder Matthew Vega-Sanz to find out more about Lula and the experience of being a young entrepreneur.
The Tiger: How did you come up with this idea?
Matthew: My favorite pizza is Papa John’s, and only Domino’s would deliver to Babson College. After my first month on campus, I was tired of it so I wanted Papa Johns. Unfortunately, they wouldn't deliver so I decided to Uber there. After seeing the Uber estimate, I realized it made no sense taking a $30 uber to pick up an $8 pizza, so I got Dominos again. When the pizza arrived I walked outside and saw the parking lot packed to capacity and thought, “Wouldn't it be cool if I could rent one of those cars to go get the pizza?”
The Tiger: Second of all, starting a company sounds extremely difficult. Is that something you and your brother have always wanted to do, or was it just the opportunity presenting itself?
Matthew: It is very difficult and I'm not sure anything you read or watch or listen to can prepare you for how tough it actually is. Michael and I always joke that if our parents loved us they wouldn't have allowed us to be entrepreneurs. We both wanted to go the Wall Street route, and were studying finance, and aimed at having successful careers within the private equity industry. When we thought of Lula, we still had planned to work other internships in the summer but once we saw the positive feedback that the idea brought on, we decided to pursue it.
The Tiger: Have you finished your degree? How do you balance your other responsibilities with all the work associated with the company?
Matthew: I was a first generation college student, and always dreamt of getting my degree, but I had to leave school prior to my junior year. Understandably so, the investors required we leave school to pursue the business full time if we wanted the money. It was too great an opportunity to pass up so we went through with it. I still get FOMO seeing my friends going to class and taking the courses I so desired to take, but I'm having the time of my life with Lula so it’s all good. With balancing my responsibilities, I have really have to organize myself with to do lists and a lot of scheduling. To do lists to me are key, and what keep my life together. Like that, I can keep track of everything that needs to be done, which allows me to finish it more efficiently, so I have time to spend with friends and calling my parents back home.
The Tiger: From what we've read, it looks like you’re targeting college campuses at the moment, do you target them through advertising or hiring local company reps? When we checked earlier today we could only find one rental in the Clemson area. How do you guys expand exactly or do you just depend on users signing up on their own?
Matthew: We do have a number of schools where we have campus reps, but we spread on most campuses through Instagram ads. Once we get a few sign ups from a particular campus, we start reaching out to organizations on campus to sponsor events in return for helping us find car owners. Once we have the cars signed up, we run targeted ads for the campus and the rentals get going just like that.
The Tiger: Finally, do you have any tips for other young entrepreneurs who might be doubting themselves or their ideas? Any advice?
Matthew: Be patient. I cannot emphasize patience enough. Everyone founder thinks their company is going to go from idea to launch in month, and that just because everyone tells you they love your idea that you're going to make a bunch of money immediately. It all takes so much longer than you imagine so be patient. For those with doubt, research your target market as much as possible. When we started, every investor and most people would tell us we could never do this because uber existed, and college students had enough options. We had famous investors and founders saying it was a cool idea but wasn't possible because no one would rent their car. When we spoke to our target demographic, it was a different story. They would constantly speak about the need for this so always keep in mind that the results of great research overweighs the word of successful investors because they don't know everything. If you have any doubt, research research research by talking with as many potential customers as possible.