Meet the Man Behind TURO, the Startup Changing the Car Rental Game

Think twice before you trash that winter beater in your driveway.

Andre Haddad wants you to make money off of the thing. And don’t think it involves an auto ad. In this man’s world, that’s anti-big picture.

“You know, experts say it took us 20 years to get to one billion cars,” says Haddad. “They say we’ll get to another billion in 25 years. So our mission is simple: To put the world’s one billion cars to better use.”

Haddad, Beirut native, CEO, and part-time DJ (he loves spinning ’90s house for his staff), is referring to TURO, his San Francisco-based auto-sharing operation that lets people rent out their cars for cash. TURO started out as “RelayRides” in 2009 and plays by the same “share-and-charge” model as Airbnb, which, if you’ve been holidaying on the moon the last three years, allows people to do the same with their apartments. Love it or hate it, the sharing thing’s not budging, and like Airbnb, everyone’s talking about TURO — including Google Ventures, who have already bought a generous stake in the brand.

Why the hype? For one, it costs Americans about 30 per cent less to rent a car from a stranger via TURO than it does renting a whip from one of your big brand joints. And with costs of living skyrocketing, TURO’s no doubt an attractive model, which explains why Haddad’s set up shop in Canada as of three weeks ago. “Canada’s the second — or depending how you look at it, third — largest car rental market. So, I think we’ll do well.”

At 45 years young, Haddad’s seen some shit, from the horrors of the Lebanese Civil War in ’89 to the rise of the Internet’s biggest 24/7 yard sale — eBay— as a former Senior VP of Products. And wherever he goes, good things seem to happen. Since co-founding his first company, iBazar (France’s first Internet marketplace) in 1999, Haddad has seen nothing but net, eventually selling iBazar to eBay for $140 million.

That was back in 2001.

So for this guy, dealing with something like, say, Ontario’s harem of auto insurance bureaucrats isn’t even close to the big game. Seeing TURO through is. As is helping car owners make a little more every month to offset the accompanying costs, something that’s hard to hate.

But TURO wasn’t always Haddad’s baby. He took over the startup from its founder, Shelby Clark, in 2011, and hasn’t looked back since. “I fell in love with this idea the first time I talked to Shelby,” he reminisces. “It made so much sense to me, especially after being at eBay for so long, where we taught people how to turn their closet into earnings.”

As Haddad sees it, TURO’s about giving life to “something that’s always losing value” and turning it into an income. “I’m in this business now so I’m sort of obsessed,” he laughs. “But these days I’ll walk by an airport and see all these cars sitting there in lots and think all of them could be revenue-generating assets. It’s that kind of thing where opportunity can be staring you in the face but you just don’t see it.”

Thankfully for us, Haddad did see it — and the car rental game might never be the same.