Transport Cars

The Bumps Along the Road for One Car-Sharing Startup in Hawaii

Jan 16, 2014 6:00 am

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The cost of diving into the rental car market is so high that most startups focus instead on using technology to connect users with existing inventory rather than creating a truly new product.

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The co-founder of Hawaii’s first commercial car-sharing venture says even though the company was forced to shut down because of financing difficulties, he still thinks the concept can be successful in the state.

Justin MacNaughton partnered with Warren Doi in 2010 to found GreenCar Hawaii, a car-sharing service catering to tourists who were able to rent the company’s hybrid and electric vehicles by the hour from kiosks in hotel lobbies.

MacNaughton and Doi expanded the business from four cars at the Grand Hyatt Kauai to 20 vehicles operating from six hotels on Kauai and Oahu in 2013. The company received early support from venture capital sources and a $200,000 federal grant administered by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

However, unable to attract new capital to finance its fleet of vehicles, the two partners decided in September to sell the business to a California startup called JustShareIt Inc., which was interested in GreenCar’s proprietary software and several potential car-share projects in the pipeline, MacNaughton said. GreenCar Hawaii’s assets were liquidated.

“In three years of operation the company received overwhelming support from both guest drivers and our hospitality partners,” MacNaughton said. “We were successful.

“At the end of the day, it came down to financing and operational capital needed to expand the fleet,” he said. “We had the potential to expand, but we couldn’t get the resources.”

JustShareIt hired MacNaughton as its vice president of business development. Doi took a job as project manager at the Energy Accelerator, a Navy-funded program administered by the nonprofit Pacific International Center for High Technology Research.

MacNaughton said he and Doi were disappointed they were not able to achieve their vision of extending GreenCar’s reach both within the visitor industry and into the local market as well.

“However, it is our strong belief car-sharing in Hawaii needs to be part of any multimodal mobility solution to alleviate the traffic and emissions that so significantly affect our communities,” MacNaughton said.

Toward that end an affiliate of German carmaker Daimler AG announced Monday that it is interested in establishing a car-sharing service in Honolulu. Officials from car2go said they are considering establishing service here with as many as 150 cars based within a 15- to 20-square-mile area of Honolulu where cars would be available for pickup and drop-off in public parking spaces.

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