Upshift has a new iOS and Android App (and lots more news)!
New mobile apps: Your car now fits in the palm of your hands!
We have been quietly heads down hard at work this fall building our new member mobile app. We are super excited to announce that our mobile app is now available for download on both the Apple App Store for iOS and the Google Play store for Android! Now you can have a 2 car garage in your pocket. Whenever you need to go somewhere, choose whether you want the hybrid RAV4 SUV or Prius and it will materialize at your doorstep when you need it- clean, gassed, and insured. The app will save your home address, preferred car, and car presets like your favorite radio station, temperature setting, drive mode, and phone charging cable. Our concierges will deliver "your" car just the way you left it last time. All you need to do is tell us when you want your car to arrive and when you want it to go away again. You won't actually get the same car each time, but since all our cars all identical down to the spec, trim, and color and it will be personalized to your settings, you will feel like it's the same car. Once we launch other cities, you will feel like you have "your" car no matter where you go in the world! Note that unfortunately you won't be able to actually use the app unless you are an active Upshift car club member.
New press: Technori podcast, The Rideshare Guy podcast, and Digital Marketing for Humans
We've been getting a lot of attention. We did an interview with Scott Kitun on the Technori podcast which you can watch on Youtube or listen here. They have a large following of folks who are into technology and startups. Harry Campbell aka "The Rideshare Guy" is interviewing us tomorrow. He has a large industry following in the rideshare/shared transportation space - plus a ton of rideshare drivers. Update: you can now here my interview with The Rideshare Guy here! We also did an interview with one of our Republic investors Maximilian Naza for his podcast Digital Marketing for Humans. We'll let you know when the last two drop. Got a podcast, blog, or another platform you can leverage to help us get our message out? Let us know!
Coming soon: vehicle telematics & concierge logistics app relaunch
We've gotten our two test mule cars up and running with the vehicle telematics provider we have decided to move forward with. We're now finalizing contracts with legal and now that the apps are live, we will start to integrate their API into our apps so you can locate, unlock, and drive "your" car without any keys- and without meeting a delivery concierge. Members can unlock the car via our app or swipe in with an Upshift branded key RFID fob that they keep on their key chain all the time, just like if it was your own car key. Either way, it will unlock and enable the ignition on whichever car you have during your booking (and only that car during that time period). All you have to do is get in, push the Start button and go. When you are done, just lock via app or swipe out and the doors will lock, ignition will disable, and our team will be able to locate your car to pick it up. Your car will simply appear at your doorstep when you need it and then disappear again when you are done.
We're almost done with the relaunching of our concierge logistics app, which will be much more scalable and stable and available on Android (not just iOS). It will also be integrated with the vehicle telematics so concierges never need to carry a bunch of keys (or worry about bringing the wrong keys) and don't need to meet members. This makes logistics way more efficient because we can schedule and "stage" car deliveries in advance and don't need to coordinate with members. It will also connect to our backend admin panel and reservation platform and (coming soon) a new automated reservation and fleet management system. There are a ton of steps to delivering and picking up cars and it is easy to forget something (eg, taking condition report photos) which can lead to expensive mistakes (like lost damages). Having a simple app will make it much easier to hire and retain concierges and keep their job much easier to manage. We'll also be able to start tracking analytics like how long jobs or tasks are taking to increase efficiency.
Car financing unfrozen: plans to double our fleet by the spring, and double again over summer
We got $400,000 in new car financing back in February of this year and used $100,000 of it to get our first three hybrid RAV4 SUVs - the day before the first COVID lockdown hit back in March. We actually had to break lockdown orders to pick them up at the dealership a few days later! And then due to COVID our car finance partner froze all of their credit lines on all of their accounts, including ours. As you may have seen in a prior update, we had to go back to Toyota Financial Services to get another $220,000 in car financing to add 5 more cars in July. As of just a few weeks ago, we finally heard that our credit lines are flowing again and we can now leverage the $300,000+ remaining on our credit line to expand our fleet. We're planning to leverage our current car financing lines to double our fleet by the spring and then we will seek new car financing to double our fleet again by the end of the summer.
Not only will this let us expand our fleet, but as of the end of 2020, all our Priuses and hybrid RAV4 SUVs have the latest in self-driving technology so they practically park and drive themselves on the highway. They will speed up and slow down with traffic and hit the brakes for you if needed. The RAV4s will even steer to keep you in the lane and the Priuses will parallel park themselves! All new cars we add will also have Apple Carplay and Android Auto (standard in 2020– models). This means we will be able to make an in-car version of our app next year which will be accessible via touchscreen or voice command. Members will be able to learn about the tech and features of the car, update their trip, contact support, or get roadside assistance- straight from the touchscreen. We're now selling our first and oldest 2016 Priuses (which will bring in $35,000 in new funding for us). The 2016s are the last cars in our fleet that don't have self-driving tech (which became standard in 2017). Our cars will soon all be 2018 model year or newer with <30,000 miles on them, like a typical lease.
COVID and Upshift
Things are pretty quiet in the past couple of weeks as San Francisco is in a lockdown through the new year. Fortunately, our revenues are tied to recurrent subscriptions, not utilization. So while utilization is down during the holiday lockdown, similar to March and April, revenues are stable. We've had some members move out of the city entirely or go on extended roadtrips. We even had one buy an identical RAV4 hybrid SUV to travel for a few months which he plans to sell and return to the service when he gets back. Once the holidays are over, this surge subsides, and vaccines become more available, we are expecting strong rebound growth in Q2 and Q3 of 2021. We expect people will start to go back into the office, but only a few days a week- perfect for a fractional car lease alternative. And once people can start to safely travel again, we expect they will do quite a bit of it - especially getting out of the city into nature, trying out that new restaurant, and meeting up with friends and family. We are very bullish on growth in 2021.
Custom mileage based insurance renewed
We just renewed our custom mileage based insurance this month. We're so excited to be continuing to have the support of the insurance broker and underwriter who have been supporting us three years in a row. Getting a custom insurance product for a new shared car business like Upshift is a big deal and we are proud we have built such a long lasting strong insurance relationship. We're looking into ways we can more effectively connect the mileage based insurance policy we have with the pricing plans we offer while keeping the business model simple.
Latest data: what people are doing right now
We analyzed all of our usage data since March and found that most people are currently driving 1-2 days/week. The biggest use case is still weekend outings and errands. But we've also seen members who are mobile hair stylists and photographers using our service to keep their businesses afloat during lockdown, members going to into their university or corporate offices part time, and even some meetings are still happening (eg, startup founders meeting with investors).
Pricing model: more personalized, flexible and dynamic
We're now in the process of optimizing and adjusting our pricing models to accommodate existing demand while also appealing to new types of demand (eg, business meetings/commuting and midweek errands) to balance our utilization throughout the week. We have a few ideas for our pricing which we have been testing and iterating on to address friction points for both operations and member experience (eg, ensuring availability, providing more plan flexibility, increasing revenues per car, etc.).
We are constantly iterating and testing our business model with real members and prospects to improve it. For instance, we've been finding that a $750 activation fee might be a bit of a high barrier to entry, particularly now (even though a down payment on a Prius or RAV4 would be more like $2–5,000!). $250 is too low to keep out the carshare and rental car demographic we want to avoid. We're planning to increase the monthly rate by $20 across the plans and reduce the activation fee to $499, which has gotten a positive response. We're also looking into developing a points based model so we can start charging different amounts for peak and off peak times, and a premium for the SUV. It shouldn't cost the same to take the RAV4 on a holiday as it does to take a Prius off peak to run an errand.
Website: better articulation of value and values
We have big plans to make changes to the website. We plan to create a personalized onboarding flow that asks you a few questions (and captures your contact info) before offering you a personalized plan, rather than a fixed set of plans. This should increase conversion, capture more leads, allow for more rapid testing of new plan ideas, and increase willingness to pay. We also want to highlight our core mission and vision to drive change in the world. Upshift is not just about being a convenient alternative to car ownership. Upshift is a machine for change. Everything we do is about driving systemic change at the highest point of leverage. We're making sharing a green car better than owning a gas guzzler by giving you all the freedom and eliminating all headaches. But that's not just about saving you time and money. It's about hiring a diverse team and making them feel like they can show up as they really are. It's about treating everyone with dignity and respect like hiring our concierges as W2 employees, providing 20% hazard pay, and granting them equity. It's about the smallest decisions like using biodegrable waterless carwash to clean our cars and non-toxic disinfectant to sanitize them. It's about reducing CO2 emissions (324,937 lbs eliminated to date) to curb climate change. And it's not just by sharing hybrids that get up to 54 MPG. We are reducing the miles people drive by making trip pricing variable (studies show when you need to pay based on use, you reduce miles driven by 27%). Cars themselves are incredibly wasteful. Sharing cars means we are reducing the cars produced, maintained, parked, serviced, repaired, and ultimately disposed of- eliminating waste all along the lifecycle. This frees up street parking for other purposes too, like lanes for bikes and other micromobility, dedicated transit lanes, and public parklets for outdoor dining and cafes. If the roughly 1/3 of San Francisco who could use our service did so and sold the cars they rarely drive today, we could eliminate the need for all street parking in the city. Just imagine what our cities would look like with no street parking! We need to highlight these values across our website to strengthen our brand and clearly articulate why we are different. Upshift is about driving change.
Building our growth flywheel: Behavioral psychologist and growth marketer
We've been working with a brilliant behavioral psychologist for the past 6 months or so who has been helping us better articulate our value proposition and brand on our website and through our member experience. One new idea is to build out a "Domino's pizza tracker" for your car. Members could visually see in their app where their car is in the process of being delivered like "Step 1: Joan is cleaning your car, Step 2: Joan is driving your car over Step 3: Joan is sanitizing your car, Step 4: Joan is taking condition reporting photographs of your car, Step 5: Your car is ready for you!". There is value to having the car simply appear and disappear, but it also hides all the effort we are putting in to provide an amazing experience for you. This could help show all the value we are providing- and also increase the willingness to pay (and member retention).
We are also planning to make the brand focus on an eco-chic fractional "car club" for everyone. It's like the mission oriented activism of Patagonia meets the trendiness of Manhattan Classic Car Club (only our cars will all be hybrid or electric). We also just started working with a new growth marketer who is helping us to better articulate our brand and value proposition. We're also working on a new digital marketing campaign that can target social media marketing on as pinpointed a demographic as people in a specific building. This way, we can target residents of specific high end condo towers in the Rincon Hill neighborhood of San Francisco where an apartment costs over $3,000/month and a parking garage in the building costs over $300/month. It's the lowest hanging fruit to get our next growth inflection- and the easiest for us to execute on. We're in the process of designing and building a new ad campaign centering on our core values of sustainability, convenience, and reliability.
Building out the first Upshift mobility hub
Our fleet to date has all been free floating. We haven't paid for parking in over 4 years in San Francisco, which has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking garage costs. However, we are getting to a scale now where it makes sense to have a few cars in a dedicated mobility hub location. Think of it more like a "pit stop" on a race track. We will always have a few cars clean and ready to go for a last minute booking so we can get you a car in as little as 15-30 minutes (now it's typically more like 30-45 minutes for a last minute booking). In practice, it's rare we need to deliver that fast, but it's nice for members and prospects to know we can get you a car that fast if needed. It will also make it much easier to clean and especially to vacuum cars as we can have all our cleaning supplies there and we can rotate cars through to get detailed. We currently do a quick 5-10 minute clean in the field between each booking and a more detailed vacuum and spray down about once a month. A mobility hub will make it easier for us to keep the cars even cleaner. It will also make our operations more efficient and give us the opportunity to start to test out integrating charging infrastructure and adding an electric car model to the fleet. An EV would add a ton of complexity with charging infrastructure and charging logistics and we'd need a base station to make it viable. We've starting working with a real estate broker and we are looking at a few options now with plans to lock down a new place starting in the new year.
It has been an exciting journey and we are so grateful to have you on it! We've already had over 2,500 people just like you invest over $547,000! We could not do any of this without your support.
If you have already invested (thank you!), you can always increase your investment at www.republic.co/portfolio/upshift This link will also work if you need to recommit your investment (eg, if your investment was cancelled earlier for any reason).
If you haven't invested yet, you can invest in Upshift for a limited time at www.republic.co/upshift
We wish all of you a healthy holiday season. Please stay safe.