Turbi startup
Diego Lira, CEO and founder of Turbi. Photo: Turbi/Courtesy

'Defensive driving': Brazil's car rental startup Turbi has no rush to accelerate

After surpassing the BRL 50 million in revenue, the startup still observes with care the conditions imposed by the pandemic before expanding to new cities

Ler em português

Car rental startup Turbi believes owning a car is a thing of the past. The company’s differential is the digital and flexible rental format. In addition to the option of renting a car for just a few hours, the service is entirely app-based, without the need to journey to an agency. It works like this: the user goes to the car, settles the payment (digitally), and takes the vehicle. After use, the car is left at one of the startups’ 24-hour parking points.

The 100% digital format took off: Turbi surpassed BRL 50 million in revenue in 2021, 125% higher than in 2020. According to the founder and CEO of Turbi, Diego Lira, the secret to the company’s growth is the technology “under the hood.” The executive is emphatic when discussing the importance of developing internal software and hardware solutions: “it is binary, there is no Turbi without technology,” comments Lira.

READ ALSO: US-based fintech company Tribal debuts in Brazil to compete for small and medium-sized businesses

“We believe that people do not need to own vehicles, especially in large cities. But, at the same time, people need to commute”, points out Turbi’s founder. Last year, the startup increased its investments in development, with the application of Bluetooth and the Internet of Things (IoT), to have more agility in the interactions between its customers’ smartphones and the available cars.

I heard a lot that ‘Brazilians will not stop buying cars because it grants status’. The truth is that a solution was missing. Now there is a product, we need to scale this product.

Diego Lira, CEO of Turbi

Another example of Turbi’s technology is artificial intelligence used for damage analysis and recognition of the startup‘s fleet. “We receive 20,000 vehicle photos from customers per week. We developed artificial intelligence that defines whether it’s a crashed car, a dirty car, or nothing. And the machine learns”, says Lira, who points to such technological solutions as seeds of growth for the startup.

Greenlight for expansion

With a leap in demand for cars, especially short trips, the startup aims to grow even more in 2022. However, business acceleration comes with challenges—no wonder the word diligence appeared in several moments during the executive’s interview with LABS.

“We no longer have that much control over the sanitary aspect. We do analyze the scenario [for growth]. Users ask us about the geographic expansion”, comments Lira. “I cannot, in the middle of a pandemic, put people on a plane to and fro, to open new cities,” says the CEO of Turbi.

READ ALSO: Uruguayan Tiendamia announced a minority investment from Cartesian Capital to boost its growth across Latin America and beyond

On the other hand, the startup still sees an avenue for growth within São Paulo. Operating only in this metropolitan region, the car rental company hit the mark of 500,000 trips made in 2021. The rental company also saw the chance of launching new products in the last 12 months, such as the monthly subscription for car rental. In December, the executive estimates that almost half of the occupied fleet was leased in this format.

“We’ve identified some use cases that are so recurring that having a vehicle available for months makes sense. And the account still closes vis-à-vis buying a vehicle. We were able to solve the customer’s problem and equalize it in a way that does not become harmful [to Turbi]”, says Lira.

READ ALSO: “The Waze of those who don’t have a car,” Quicko lowers commuting stress in Brazil’s largest cities

If, on the one hand, Turbi’s executive is cautious when talking about plans for the future; on the other, Lira makes it clear that the company used the pandemic time to prepare its expansion to other large cities in the country (and even in Latin America). In 2021, the company expanded its team, rising from 30 to 100 employees.

“Expansion is inevitable. We can’t say how much will be accelerated this year or not. International growth is in our planning; we did this exercise during the pandemic, we did our homework “, points out Turbi’s CEO.