What’s the inspiration behind Borrow?
Rodrigo: Jon and I set out to create a connected car company. As first we were focused on leasing. As that business grew, we found the market was asking us to disrupt the traditional automotive industry by focusing on financing and leasing, and by bringing lower monthly payments and shorter terms for a luxury car. Our answer was Borrow—which gives customers a luxury experience through the convenience of a subscription service, the advanced technology of EVs and flexible terms, all at a reasonable price. We built the website July 1, 2017. We had our first customer on July 5th and our first institutional investor all within a few days.
Rodrigo—how has your past work experience influenced your approach to Borrow?
Rodrigo: My entire career has been about bringing people together. My first job in media was at a traditional advertising agency. In my role there I brought buyers and sellers together. When I transitioned to internet sales and marketing, I brought digital buyers and sellers together.
Most recently as a transactions attorney, my job was focused on complex commercial deals bringing technology buyers and sellers together. Along the way, I also founded my first startup in the online marketing industry focused on customer acquisition. Now my career has come full circle in that we are acquiring customers online and providing them with electric cars in an innovative way. My approach to Borrow is the same approach I’ve had since my career started in the early 90s. We are uniting customers and electric cars, and giving those customers flexible transportation alternatives.
Jon—this is not the first time you’ve founded a company. What skills do you think are essential? Any stories you’d like to share about your entrepreneurial journey?
Jon: I think it’s important to have a keen focus on the product you’re building and to create the most awe-inspiring experience for your users. Some people call that sparking wonder, we like to think of it as building kickass customer-centric experiences! The only way to do that is to use the product yourself. I’m always amazed by people starting companies around markets they don’t care for. Rodrigo and I both drive EVs and are staunch supporters of the electric revolution. Using our years of experience as operators, we’ve built a product unlike any other in the marketplace! As founders, we always aim to over perform.
Another skill I learned as an entrepreneur is to not let those big wins or the giant soul-sucking losses get to you too much. It’s important to put your head down and get the work done.
I’ve had a singular focus as an entrepreneur and it has always been centered around transportation and mobility services. Two wheels or four wheels, motorcycle or electric car, car subscriptions or media companies—I’ve always been obsessed with how people move around. One of our investors referred to me as a car-trepreneur. I’ve taken to the expression.
How did you two meet? How do you work together?
Rodrigo: Jon and I met many moons ago (the 90s!) in Northern California and have seen many hairstyles, fashion choices, and life phases come and go. Ultimately, we both moved to Los Angeles.
We have very complementary strengths. Together we are a great mix of art, science, creativity and analysis. We have a very open and practical approach to running the business and hold each other to very high standards. Our common goal is to increase revenue and margin while using a “customers first” northern star as our guide.
Jon: As Rodrigo said, we met a long time—and many haircuts ago. We have been friends ever since. Rodrigo and I may not agree on everything, but we always come to a consensus on what’s right for the company and our team. I believe that is an important trait for co-founders to have and usually leads to better decision making and ultimately a better company. It’s important to be heard and to talk it out. Though I’m sure Rodrigo would like a little less of my platitudes on mindfulness, meditation and yoga...
How do you handle risk and competition?
Rodrigo: At the very beginning we welcomed risk and competition as validating characteristics of our industry. Now that we have been successfully operating for 3 years, risk and competition mean different things. As an attorney, I have a natural awareness of so many risk factors. I know where all the edges are and I’m usually the one pushing the envelope to see if we can do better for our customers and our bottom line.
As for competition, we have seen it come and go from all sectors-- car companies, rental cars, startups.
Competition has strengthened our commitment to our customers and EVs. We are still the only all-EV subscription car company.
What’s been the top challenge you’ve faced while launching your company?
Rodrigo: The biggest challenge has been handling our growth. Balancing customer demand with inventory is tough. While experiencing demand that outweighs our supply is a nice problem to have, we never want to disappoint customers by having them wait longer than they’d like to get into one of our EVs.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Rodrigo: I have learned a ton from being the Founder & CEO of Borrow. I have become an expert on the car buying process (both wholesale and retail), insurance, accounting (reluctantly) and auto financing. I’ve also learned that nobody wants to move faster than we want to move.
Related to that, I’ve learned patience. This has been the toughest part. I’m usually calling out squeaky wheels that need grease.
What do you see for the future of EVs in America?
Rodrigo: EVs in America are definitely a huge growth opportunity. Every auto manufacturer has either released an EV or is planning to. Adoption rate is high, signifying acceptance. With more diversity in makes, models and price points, the sky really is the limit.
Jon: The market is going to grow a lot faster. While it may seem like only early adopters are driving EVs, EV adopters will become more and more mainstream in the next few years. The consumer tipping point will be when Ford comes out with an all-electric F150. Then the market will really explode.
What’s your team culture like?
Rodrigo: It’s a flat management structure with smart work over hard work as our mantra. We hire highly capable team members with incredible instincts who want to be a critical component of the EV movement.
Jon: Everyone is heard, everyone’s opinion matters, and we believe everyone should have a life outside of work. We’re all in this together. When Covid-19 hit and we all went remote, the team was so tight knit we didn’t miss a beat.
What is your superpower?
Rodrigo: Human lie detector. This skill has come in handy particularly recently when considering new partnerships. We have some nice momentum now and as a result we have many folks approaching us to help us bring EVs to their city/company/employees/customers. Having a nose for BS helps separate the wheat from the chaff and helps keep us focused on fostering partnerships with a strong foundation and longevity in mind.
Jon: I can tune almost anything out. I think it comes from having kids and a dog and spending so many years on a plane traveling when I was a consultant. I can work in a loud room, a quiet room, a busy airport or a loud restaurant and just focus on the work. This comes in handy now when I am spending a lot more time working from home and it’s loud AF. In order to get my attention, you really, really, really have to make yourself noticed. It’s like waking the dead.
What’s your kryptonite?
Jon: Licorice. Black or red, doesn’t matter—I’ll eat the whole package.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
Rodrigo: Before any meeting or call, I always wash my hands to rid myself of any baggage I might have.
Jon: I take 20 deep breaths before each meeting—doesn’t matter if it’s a video, phone or in-person; I close my eyes, focus and project on where I’d like to see the end result of the meeting go. I find that one or two minutes of contemplation really works wonders.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Rodrigo: I’m big into languages. I was raised tri-lingual and then studied two more all the way through college. Most recently, I took an immersive Brazilian Portuguese course. A non-romance language is likely next. In my spare time, I like to take my motorcycle out for rides. An ambitious project is learning how to fix it myself.
Jon: I have a wife and two young children. Does cleaning up after my kids count as a hobby? In all seriousness, I race cars, do hot yoga and am actively involved as a board member of my daughter’s school. I’m trying to teach my kids, and practice myself, Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam is a Jewish concept defined by performing acts of kindness to create a better world. This is less a hobby and more a full time job now...
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Rodrigo: Take more than a long weekend as a vacation and say no to more invitations.
Jon: Get more sleep, do more exercise, and drink more champagne.