Since its inception in 2018, UFODRIVE quickly became one of the most intriguing startups in Luxembourg. With a recent fundraise and ambitious growth plans, the car rental company is ready to roll in the upcoming year, as CEO Aidan McClean told us.
Photo: UFODRIVE’s cars parked at Findel, Luxembourg’s airport / Credits © UFODRIVE
For the ones who do not know UFODRIVE yet, what is your startup all about?
UFODRIVE is really about solving all car rental pain points you experience today in airports and city centers. It is an easy, fast, and simple way to rent a car in prime locations. Instead of the 45-50 minute wait you typically experience in an airport, it takes just two minutes with UFODRIVE. Every aspect from booking to opening the car is handled via our app with just a few clicks.
We offer only electric cars and premium electric cars, which is for two reasons: To help to protect the environment from air pollution and to provide an overall better customer experience as we take care of charging the car, including covering the costs for that and monitoring our cars’ ranges 24/7.
“We had some phenomenal 12 months.”
Additionally, the experience of collecting your car is completely different than with a normal car park. It is more like a rental store with high-intensity lighting, chargers onsite, and screens explaining how the whole process works. So it is also kind of a special experience when you collect your car at one of our stations, which we call “UFOBAY”.
What progress did you make in 2019?
Since we started the company in May 2018 at Luxembourg’s Findel Airport, everything went kind of into “fast forward” mode. This year, we had some phenomenal 12 months. We offered our service only in three locations at the beginning of 2019. Now, by the end of the year, we are present in eight countries with a total of 15 locations.
After opening first in cities relatively close to Luxembourg, we started to offer our service in places that are further away. For example, our service is now available in Vienna and as of lately also in Berlin.
What are your plans for 2020 after recently closing a new funding round?
After raising the first part of our seed round in 2018 to get started with our business, we now basically closed the second part of it. We raised 2.6 million Euros from Dublin-based Business Venture Partners (BVP), which will help to fuel our growth next year.
We plan a rapid increase in expansion and to build on our momentum in 2020 to have a truly global footprint by this time next year. We signed more than 20 new prime locations in 2019 that will be opened all over Europe and even beyond next year. I can’t share any specifics yet but we will also go across oceans, to say the least. We kick 2020 off by opening several locations in London.
“The quantum of our Series A will be significant.“
Despite our growth ambitions, we are planning to stay as lean as possible. We are 16 people now and when we will hire new employees, we will do so very consciously. In this regard, we will fill positions primarily in technology, sales, and marketing.
After all, it is also our goal to do another round of fundraising next year. The quantum of our Series A will be significant. Hopefully a multiple of what we just raised.
What would you recommend to other founders with regard to raising venture capital?
I can recommend to other founders to not go out cold when trying to raise venture capital. I probably wasted a few months when I initially tried to approach VCs that way. Many ideas look great on presentation slides but it is never just about the idea. You have to demonstrate that you are able to execute with your team.
For our initial funding, it helped a lot to have a great network in Luxembourg and to be able to show that my co-founder and I had lots of experience with large scale IT and transformation projects in our previous jobs. Thanks to that we could get the first investment and start UFODRIVE.
Founders should try to go with the simplest way to get their business off the ground in the beginning. This could be with the help of business angels. Once you can show traction and revenue, everything changes. Then you can start and try to go down the VC route.