Why is it that people own a car? This was the question that Niki Sie asked himself before he set out to found Juuve, a car-sharing platform currently active in Rotterdam and Utrecht.
So, what if they could have all that, without having a car of their own?
“We founded Juuve because we wanted to enable such mobility by having people share cars,” Niki says. “We developed a platform where users can access all kinds of cars around the city in one app.” At the moment, the company is growing its fleet in two Dutch cities and is making plans to expand further.
Fewer cars, more space, cleaner air
While access to shared cars and improved mobility may be the direct result of their solution, it is not the end game for Niki and his team.
“We want to reduce the overall impact of vehicles in cities,” he says. “About half of all the space in cities is reserved for cars and it is strange that we allocate so much space to them, while they are not by a long shot the most efficient way of getting around. Not to mention that they are also one of the main sources of air pollution.”
In other words, Juuve wants to decrease the number of cars in cities. And they are not alone in their mission.
The City of Rotterdam aims to erase a few thousand parking spots in the coming years, Niki says. Rotterdam’s Meent has already seen a part of this transformation, with parking spots being turned into terraces for restaurants to welcome more guests on.
So, how can a car-sharing platform help reach such goals? “By offering scale and affordability,” Niki says. “For our solution to really make an impact, we need scale. If people want to rent one of our cars, they need to have it in their reach - and that means no farther than a five-minute walk.”
The team started with a focused approach. They chose specific neighborhoods, trialed their concept within them, and then expanded further. At the moment, they have about 250 cars and Niki expects they would need at least three times more before they can offer the scale that can make the company profitable.
The car-sharing market, while still a relatively new one, is not without competition. An affordable monthly subscription and pricing per ride have thus been key to offering people an attractive service. There are currently around 1,000 active users on Juuve’s platform every month.
Facing challenges and the unexpected
To many, running a car-sharing company may sound like quite the logistical challenge. It is about managing an ever-growing fleet of cars, but also about ensuring that there is a variety of vehicles - from small city cars to large moving vans, from diesel to electric, from basic to premium brands. It is about having all cars properly maintained, clean and ready to use at all times.
Certainly, Niki’s previous experience in the automotive industry has played an important role so far. “Most of our cars are not owned by us,” he says. “I know a lot of dealerships so when we started, I reached out and asked them if they have cars that are not being used. Many of them did and wanted to explore this market.”
Such partnerships have been crucial for Juuve’s growth. Another key factor has been attracting the right users.
“Our main target audience is people who use a car at least three times a week - but not every day. For them, our service would be cheaper than private leasing a car.”
Niki’s initial expectation was that Juuve would mostly be used for commuting and taking trips outside of the city. What he did not see coming is that people would rent one of their cars to go on holiday across Europe. It only showed him how much unexplored potential there still is in the service.
Speaking of potential, along the way he and his team came across another important finding. It was the results of a recent Dutch study that showed that about 50% of all nationwide car rides are under 7.5 kilometers.
“These short rides in the city cause traffic jams and pollution, and are essentially the most harmful,” Niki says. “We want to help decrease those, so we are also launching our first electric bikes in Utrecht.” Such distances may be a bit too much for a normal bike, but they are perfect for an electric one.
It is this kind of mindset that has helped Juuve grow so far. It is about offering a service that people want and need, and making it accessible. It is also about adjusting course when needed and being flexible enough to explore new opportunities.