SVP Blog Series: Lula Rides
Lula Rides is a car sharing platform, with a twist. Described by BostInno as “Airbnb for College Students’ Cars”, it has users taking trips on Babson’s Wellesley campus, as well as requests to join fifty additional college campuses. Founded by Babson student Michael Vega-Sanz (interviewed here) and his twin brother Matthew Vega-Sanz, the application just received $220,000 in funding. You can download the iOS application from http://lularides.com/
Where does the name Lula come from?
We wanted to test out the names for the company, so we asked twenty plus people. Babson is really international, and so naturally the 20 people were from all over. Lula is a Zulu word, meaning “convenient”. The name of the company, Lula Rides, means Convenient Rides.
When did you initially have your inspiration for this business?
One evening I was bored in my dorm room and came up with this idea for an on-campus car rental service. I pitched the idea at Babson’s Beta Challenge and got a warm reception. My brother and I had finance internships lined up, but decided to take the summer off and work on the idea instead.
Were there any particular programs or workshops that helped you,
There was an event at Pierce Atwood, one of the law firms that had partnered with the Blank Center. We broke into groups with professionals from different industries and spent over an hour getting feedback from them. There was also SVPs “Hot Seat”, which is a roast for your business pitch. It’s done in a way that is both comical and useful. After that I immediately got to work revising my pitch and a week later successfully pitched in front of 150 people, having incorporated all the feedback.
Tell me about your current team?
My twin brother Matthew (CEO) and I (President) started the company together and take on a number of roles. There is also Ryan, who is the backbone of our outreach and marketing. We also work with three extremely clever Olin students who are helping develop lock boxes for the cars. Finally we’ve got three advisors: Mick, a former executive at Sysco, and also a former V.C. He got us in contact with AT&T, whose tracker we are using to see how safely renters drive. Sarah is an investment buff and has helped us through raising our first rounds. Scott works out in San Francisco at Shapiro and has a lot of experience advising startups.
Did you experience any failures in your entrepreneurial process? Did you have a moment when you were frustrated?
We had this bug that broke the rental functionality. I think we went into tunnel vision at that point. David saw how this was eating at us and encouraged us saying, “It can be fixed, don’t give up on this”.
Who is someone influential that you met through the program?
So many people. There is Dan Towvim, our advisor. We meet with him once a week and he helps us on so many things. There is Peter Blacklow, an investor at Boston Seed Capital. And Sarah, a former CMO at both ZipCar and Virgin, and now one of our advisors. She has helped us so much with out go-to-market strategy.
Was there anything that the Summer Venture Program provided that was indispensable?
The SVP was a supportive community – there was always someone there. Insurance in particular took so long to land. We emailed over 100 companies and had conversations with forty in person or on the phone. People would come up and say “it’s not the end of the road. You guys have this.”
What do you feel that you accomplished in SVP?
It helped us create our network – we mingled with startups, developers and students from across Boston campuses. Also, I would say that Lula’s go-to-market strategy was really formed during SVP.
Will you use things you learned in SVP again?
In terms of branding and marketing, we learned how we should position the business based on what we want to portray. We were and still are constantly asking ourselves how we want to be seen in the eyes of the customer. In terms of fundraising, we learned a huge amount of wisdom about tactics. We were told to make a list of investors that we want to pitch to, and then to figure out which ones offered the least value, and to pitch to them first. We’ve spoken to nine investors so far and we know now what investors want to hear.
What do you think your business will do going forward, will you stay at it?
Looking to the future, we are absolutely sticking with the company. My brother and I both took time off school to pursue this venture – I haven’t even inquired about jobs or internships because I’m extremely confident in Lula.
How was it being around the other startups in SVP?
SVP offers so many different benefits that come in the form of resources, networking, and experience, but more than anything I do believe that the people make SVP so special. They become your family, and will ultimately be the people you lean on during your time in SVP, and afterwards.