Despite making headlines with a deadly pandemic and a hotly contested presidential campaign, the U.S.'s ongoing fight against racism was an important story in 2020 as well. "To be honest, we've had some really incredibly vocal and charismatic black leaders in Turo who gave us some really insightful data on the lack of access to capital, the average black American, and how this community is in general terms of access to capital compared to any other community in the US, "stated Andre Haddad, CEO of Turo.
With this in mind, Turo launched a pilot program called the Seed Initiative. The company has partnered with micro-loan provider Kiva to provide up to $ 15,000 in interest-free loans to fund black entrepreneurs in 14 U.S. cities so they can use the platform to start car rentals. Successful applicants can fund up to $ 7,500 on Kiva, which is Turo dollar for dollar.
"I've always been excited about the impact our platform has on anyone who becomes a host [the term for someone who lends vehicles on Turo] – the fact that they can start making the car no longer just a pejorative cost center to be in an asset that generates cash and helps pay for yourself, "Haddad said. "But to be able to participate and create this economic value, you have to have a car first. And unfortunately there are many people who simply cannot afford to buy a car and therefore do not even have access to the marketplace," said he called me recently.
Atlanta-based Vernon Byers is a serial entrepreneur who applied to the Seed Initiative. "I chose Turo because it was a great service and opportunity for the community and entrepreneurs," Byers told me via email. "The Seed Initiative is an exciting process where you can share your vision with a successful and supportive collective who are excited about your success," he wrote.
"How can I take the business to the next level?"
Miami-based entrepreneur Dennis Brown is one of the first to receive funding through the Seed Initiative. "It was perfect timing because at the time I was developing a strategy," OK, how can I get more vehicles – how can I take the business to the next level? "" Brown said to me. He rented his Chevrolet Camaro on Turo, making between $ 750 and $ 1,000 a month. But now he's planning to add something more accessible to his fleet "for the crew who want to explore Miami – there are three or four of them, but they want a car they all fit in, you know," Brown said.
As part of the approval process, Turo staff will help applicants select a suitable vehicle. "I spoke to the person in Turo who sent me a list of the top performing cars," said Santo Alima, who works for Capital One in Florida. "That's one of the reasons I chose it. Nissan has also signed an extended warranty contract," said Alima.
Nissan is partnering with Turo to provide three years of complimentary maintenance to Seed Initiative hosts. Though applicants aren't limited to the Japanese brand, Byers, like Alima, plans to buy a Nissan too.
"We're much more committed to these particular entrepreneurs because we want to make sure they benefit from all of the data and the infrastructure we've built," said Haddad. "We want to make sure that these newly shaped entrepreneurs are really successful. We want to make sure that this experience is really very positive for them," said Haddad.
Turo is currently investing $ 1 million in the Seed Initiative – enough to fund more than 130 new hosts. "We're still a small company to us and that's a lot of money," Haddad said to me. "However, we hope that as we get bigger and the initiative shows good traction, we will have a lot of appetite for these loans and also good repayment rates. If these two metrics perform well, I will certainly be very motivated to expand. " the pilot in a much larger program, maybe even an ongoing program, "Haddad said.