posted on December 21, 2020

As the sun sets on 2020 and this remarkable year melts away into the past, I, like the rest of the world, am struck by how quickly and abruptly our entire world changed. How quotidian things we took for granted suddenly became cherished things for which we yearned — both simple acts like going out to dinner or hugging friends, as well as universal truths that we had come to rely on to run our lives and our business — travel, social interaction, seasonal trends, etc. Though the bedrock of society, our very perception of “normal”, was shaken to the core, I’m inspired by the resilience, the perseverance, the collaboration (at a distance), and above all the hope that society at large and the Turo community has demonstrated in these unquestionably difficult times. 

Looking back on 2020, it’s been both a whirlwind and a long, slow haul. Here’s a recap of the greatest hits from a year we won’t soon forget, and a glimpse into a fresh new year that is full of promise.

Series E delivers some fresh funding

In February, what seems like a lifetime ago, we welcomed a portfolio of new investors to the Turo family — including cultural celebrities like NFL legend Larry Fitzgerald and rapper 2Chainz. The $30 million investment supplemented our Series E fundraise led by IAC last summer, bringing the grand total for our Series E to $280 million, and welcomed Manhattan Venture Partners (MVP), Allen & Company LLC, and others to the Turo investor family. We were invigorated by both the fresh influx of funds, as well as a thriving business that was growing 60% year-over-year as of February 2020. Little did we know what was just around the corner.

COVID strikes hard and deep

We were cruising like everyone else, making plans, setting targets — that is, until the world ground to a sudden and definitive halt. It started with a shelter-in-place order here in California, and then soon started taking an incisive toll on our business at home and abroad. As the world was reacting hour by hour to COVID updates, we tried to support our communities however we could. We encouraged people to refrain from non-essential travel and to abide by health and safety guidance, while also encouraging our hosts to support essential mobility in their communities as safely as possible. With air travel brought to a standstill and public transit and ridesharing a bit too close for comfort (literally), car travel became an essential mode of transportation.

While trips markedly decreased in March, essential workers still needed to be able to get where they needed to go, and everyday citizens still needed access to cars to go to the store or run essential errands. Our hosts played critical roles in supporting their communities with their cars. In March and April, 77% of Turo guests said they used Turo for commuting to work, with 47% of those guests working as health care workers, first responders, food service providers, or janitors. 

Shifted focus onto cleaning protocols

Apart from realizing our own resilience as human beings and that we can continue to collaborate effectively while keeping our distance, Q2 taught us all more about cleaning, disinfection, and how germs spread than we ever imagined. As we studied the guidelines from the CDC, NIH, and WHO, the team acted quickly to enact enhanced cleaning protocols that educated hosts on how to thoroughly clean and disinfect their cars between trips. We hosted a webinar, where we delved into the nuts and bolts of cleaning practices with cleaning experts, and we created a training course that all hosts are required to take to ensure they’re aware of the expectations to clean their cars rigorously. If they don’t take the course, they have a mandatory 72-hour buffer applied between trips to allow ample time for germs to dissipate. 

Now, in December, I’m pleased to report that over 90% of active cars are shared by hosts who have passed the training course, demonstrating the host community’s commitment to public safety and clean car sharing. We hope this fast, decisive action to invest in cleaning standards (as well as partnering with several elite cleaning service providers) has helped to safeguard the Turo community while navigating the complex landscape COVID-19 has created.

Business bounces back, car travel more relevant than ever

Despite the anxiety-ridden doldrums of March and April, things started to look up come May. Versus late-March, bookings were up 500% in May, demonstrating the emerging renaissance of car travel as the go-to mode of transportation during pandemic times. Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of trips were locals taking local trips, but as the summer came and the world started relaxing and adapting to the “new normal”, people started taking longer leisure trips as they craved an outdoor escape from the confines of their homes.

As we emerged from our shelter-in-place stupors in June and July, the world was ready to hit the road. Hailed as “the summer of the road trip”, Turo saw an encouraging bounceback as we entered into the warmer months. TSA traffic was way down, but local car travel was shooting up. A survey of Turo guests showed that while only 14% were comfortable with public transit, 41% were OK with flying, and 87% felt good about car sharing during COVID times. Cars were emerging as essential spaces to move, reflect, change scenery, all while complying with health and safety guidelines.

Drive-in movie tour for healthcare workers

And speaking of cars as essential spaces, another glimmer of light in an otherwise challenging year was our “Turo at the movies” drive-in tour, where we hosted events in Miami, LA, and northern Colorado to celebrate and thank our heroic healthcare workers who have been laboring day in and day out on the frontlines of an unrelenting health crisis. Drive-in movie theatres experienced a resurgence in relevance this year, quenching the thirst for a night out but again, keeping that physical distance, and we were thrilled to do whatever small part we could to alleviate the stress of the pandemic and bring some levity to the lives of these healthcare heroes.

Turo launches in British Columbia

And in the midst of it all, Turo had a wildly successful launch in British Columbia, one of the most populous and breathtaking Canadian provinces and a massive win to bring car sharing to the west coast of Canada. After years of negotiating with the provincial government and insurer ICBC, the team was thrilled to obtain a new insurance product that covers every Turo trip in BC with a protection plan offering $2 million in liability insurance and physical damage coverage up to the full value of the car, with no deductible for hosts. 

I, for one, can’t wait to book a car from a Turo host in beautiful British Columbia as soon as it’s safe to travel up north.

A year of social reckoning and responsibility

The turmoil incited by the pandemic was compounded and escalated by the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, which sparked a chain reaction of anguish around and hyperawareness of the systemic racism that has plagued America for generations. Like the rest of the world, we were moved, devastated, rapt, listening attentively, and eager to contribute. We searched for ways to affect change in an authentic, substantive, and meaningful way that wasn’t just paying the movement lip service.

In November, we launched the Turo Seed Initiative, a novel program created in partnership with Kiva to help address wealth inequality in America exacerbated by systemic racism. The program aims to jumpstart the entrepreneurial engines of aspiring entrepreneurs of all colors and creeds, but with special attention on traditionally underserved Black communities. Successful Seed Hosts will crowdfund a loan on Kiva, which Turo will match dollar-for-dollar (up to $7,500) for Seed Hosts to buy a car to share and start building a small car sharing business on the Turo marketplace. I’m proud of the way this initiative leverages the innate Turo value proposition as it is — creating economic empowerment for all — and elegantly focuses it on a specific use case.

I’ve been so inspired by the influx of applications and the stories of the applicants, including one of our very own employees, Robbie, and I can’t wait to showcase these hosts in the new year as they start building their businesses on Turo.

Celebrating 10 years of Turo and reflecting on marketplace evolution

This summer marked 10 years of Turo, inviting us to look back on how far we’ve come. Reflecting on the early days and hearkening back to that snowy night in Cambridge when Turo founder Shelby Clark had the aha! moment that set the wheels in motion for everything to come, I can’t help but swell with pride in what the Turo community and team has built together — a collaborative, dynamic marketplace that’s hosted over 13 million trip days, seen nearly a half a million cars listed and put to better use, earned $1 billion in gross revenue, and continues to build momentum with a record-setting third quarter, even in the throes of a global pandemic. Marketplace dynamics have evolved over the years, with paradigms coming into line with the elevated expectations of the ever-savvier digital consumer, and it’s so invigorating to witness, react, and respond to the shifting market landscape and pioneer this path together.

Exceptional progress despite a challenging economy

Despite a volatile economy and whiplash-inducing shifts in societal trends and social behavior every day, we’ve made exceptional progress this year in fine-tuning the Turo experience for hosts and guests, and making strides towards strengthening the sustainability of the marketplace. 

We introduced a suite of new hosts protection plans, giving US-based hosts more protection options than ever, and hosted a webinar taking a deep dive into protection and claims at Turo. The webinar showcased how different Turo protection is from traditional auto insurance, giving hosts a peek under the hood of the nuances of insurance and the economics of claims. 

The team also made bold strides in closing legacy loopholes to better balance the marketplace, specifically around additional distance and how hosts were able to charge for distance. The changes standardized the pricing structure to make charging for distance fairer to guests, and is an excellent example of when it’s appropriate for marketplaces to step in and set quality standards to help it stay competitive and champion its long term sustainability.

We also had an eventful and rich Q4, launching a partnership with Kayak, taking a firmer stance on smoking and banning guests with proven smoking violations, and, just last week, launching early bird discounts as a new lever for hosts to tinker with as they customize their businesses to demand in their area. 

We garnered some exciting press coverage that elevated and celebrated the business’ progress throughout 2020, with features on CNBC and Bloomberg TV to share the story of the long-awaited return of Turo to New York, our growth and the resilience of our community since the slowdown at the beginning of the pandemic, and thoughts on Airbnb’s recent IPO. 

A bright outlook for 2021

Looking forward to 2021, we’re invigorated by the outstanding progress and unprecedented speed of the vaccine. Not only does it promise to remedy this insidious illness that’s taken such a tragic human toll this year, but also it will inspire people to resume a more normal existence, embracing movement, social connection, adventure, and kickstarting confidence in travel once more. As society starts to regain that confidence, we anticipate a bounceback that starts to build momentum in Q2, accelerating into the summer high season and through the end of year as travelers make up for lost time.

As we await that renewed confidence in travel, we’ll be operating under the same three-pronged framework as this year, with even more focus, intention, and precision. Everything we do in the new year will endeavor to create:

  • An incredible opportunity for hosts, focusing on boosting host earnings and profit and reducing hassle by creating a seamless experience for building a small car sharing business on Turo.
  • A differentiated guest experience, aiming to provide clean, safe cars, unparalleled selection, exceptional, personalized service, and outstanding trips, whether traveling near or far.
  • A sustainable marketplace that can thrive long-term — with the back half of 2020 showing encouraging momentum in our business economics, we’ll continue to hone our tactics to ensure the marketplace will thrive for many years to come.

It’s been a whirlwind year, and I’m invigorated by the resilience and perseverance of the Turo community and the Turo team. While I certainly hope next year doesn’t have as many obstacles, challenges, and travails as this year, I’m also grateful for the opportunity this year has given us all to shine so brightly through adversity. 

Have a safe, warm holiday season and cheers to a bright new year ahead!

Andre is the Turo CEO and a true car enthusiast. After many years in the consumer web space, he combines his passion for cars, technology, and the environment each day at Turo as he works to put the world’s one billion cars to better use.