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Car-sharing firm HiyaCar poised to launch in Maidstone after entrepreneurs meet experts in San Francisco

By Chris Price

Two entrepreneurs running a car-sharing business are poised to launch in their hometown after swapping tips with some of the world’s top experts in a Government-funded trip to San Francisco.

Graeme Risby and Rob Larmour, who live in Boughton Monchelsea, are hoping to sign up at least 20 drivers in Maidstone to their firm HiyaCar, which allows motorists to rent their vehicle out to other drivers while they are not using it.

The pair were flown out to the US last month to meet bosses from the likes of AirBnB and Turo, which have already become global names in the sharing economy.

Greame Risby and Rob Lamour have launched their car-sharing business HiyaCar

Greame Risby and Rob Lamour have launched their car-sharing business HiyaCar

Their firm, formerly known as Ascendia, was one of seven flown out by Social Enterprise UK in a week described by Mr Risby as “the most important ever” for the company.

Today, the business has more than 200 drivers signed up but only 20 cars ready for hire, spread between Bristol, Milton Keynes, a few in Manchester and one in Gravesend.

Mr Risby said: “We are not going live in this area until we have 15 to 20 cars ready to go.

"Some people might not have access to a car while owners might make money to afford something nice...” - Graeme Risby, HiyaCar

“We are two local boys who want to provide our service to people in Maidstone.

“We want the communities who use us to have the freedom to have a better life. Some people might not have access to a car while owners might make money to afford something nice.”

The trip to San Francisco featured a seven-hour meeting with the co-founder of getaround, the world’s second largest peer-to-peer car hire company.

Since then, the pair have revealed they have an app close to going live within the next month, while they are also working on technology which will allow members to enter cars using the app, taking away the need for owners to hand over their keys.

Mr Risby said: “The US trip was the first of its kind. It has been on the Government’s agenda for a while and was set up on the back of the Government’s review of the sharing economy in 2014.

“It was surreal to go over there. We were mixing with huge companies.”

Greame Risby and Rob Lamour have launched their car-sharing business HiyaCar

Greame Risby and Rob Lamour have launched their car-sharing business HiyaCar

Mr Risby and Mr Larmour, who met working at Waitrose in Allington as teenagers, are also pressing the Government for the right to give tax advantages for car owners offering their vehicle for hire.

They have already had an hour-long meeting with transport minister Andrew Jones about the idea.

Investors seem to believe their concept can work. HiyaCar’s crowdfunding campaign on the Seedrs website reached its target of £300,000 in 12 days, attracting 244 investors and giving away 24% equity in the business.

Mr Risby said: “Tax is a big barrier. We overcame the insurance problem, we funded the business in 12 days via crowdfunding but tax is out of our control.

“It is another reason for people to say no but if you say tell someone they can get a £5,000 tax break if they hire out their car then it becomes worthwhile, even if they only hire out their car a few times and make a few pounds.”

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