Upshift changes the way cars are used in urban life by providing a fractional car leasing service. They are live in San-Francisco and are backed by prominent investors including MINI (BMW) and Urban Us.
Interview Date: 9th June 2020
As the CEO and Founder of Upshift, Ezra Goldman is no stranger to innovative mobility solutions. Leading up to his current position, he co-founded a dockless bike share in 1999 and also helped design and build an EV scooter for shared use at MIT Media Lab in 2006. For him, a focus on the future is crucial to developing a successful product or service.
“I have a forward-thinking mindset that focuses on the future and, more specifically, the future of shared mobility. Beyond that, my core background seeks to answer the question of how to develop innovative new products and services that people actually want,” he says.
Goldman founded Upshift based on a need he experienced himself. “It’s very important for me to connect with nature on a regular basis. But, having lived in cities for 20 years, I found you really need a car to be able to do that. I didn’t want to own a car because of all the frustrations. You have to deal with parking, parking tickets, insurance, maintenance, and all the rest of it.”
A unique alternative to leasing a car
There are various car leasing services available in the US, but Upshift is unique in that it solves for a specific need of many urban dwellers, who want the convenience of a car at their disposal although they only use it a few days a month.
“Essentially, we allow our members to eliminate their need of a car by allowing them part time access to a car as a lifestyle choice. Members can order a car online, it is delivered within 30 minutes, and they only use it for a few hours or days – completely eliminating frustrations involving insurance, maintenance, cleaning, and refueling, and parking,” explains Goldman.
It started as a way to give people convenience, freedom, and flexibility. But another focus is also to improve our cities and make them more livable for people while reducing carbon emissions.
“Back in 2018, we noticed a lot of members were in need of a low mileage lease alternative. So we started running fractional car subscriptions, with a unique model that is eliminating the number of underutilized cars in our city streets.”
We asked Goldman about his greatest challenges so far.
“Seeing as this is an entirely new service, we had to create custom operations in terms of storing, delivering, and picking up cars. We also had to figure out how to effectively manage the financial side, such as how to structure insurance. But the great thing here is that we get to create the kind of processes that optimize and streamline the entire operation.”
“A two car garage in your pocket”
Fractional car leasing isn’t the only thing Upshift focuses on. Goldman adds that “if you look at anything in the automotive industry, whether it’s buying, renting, or sharing a car, you’ll see that customer service tends to be something people complain about a lot. So one of the things we really put a lot of effort into is to excel the user experience and make it seem like these are really the user’s cars that we simply manage for them.”“We have a vision of a two-car garage in your pocket. Essentially this means that members can customize their cars from within our member app in terms of radio station, temperature settings, charging cables, and all the relevant accessories like surf racks or dog covers, so that it looks and feels just like their own car.”
Upshift also offers peace of mind which isn’t necessarily there with other services where people have to disinfect the car themselves or share a ride with someone. “We will also further reduce safety risks by offering a completely contactless experience by means of vehicle telematics and our member app. So you get the car dropped off at your leisure, you unlock it on your own, and it’s fully disinfected.”
Big Names Already On Board
Already live in San Francisco, Upshift has an existing subscriber base and a waiting list. With companies like MINI (BMW subsidiary) and Ford having already provided financing, they have prominent debt finance partners on the vehicle acquisition side. But they also wanted to onboard investors that are closer to their member base, Goldman told us, “we are looking to interact with backers to get their input and learn from their experiences.” That is what led them to their current crowdfunding campaign on Republic.
Looking to Scale to Major Cities in the US
“Right now we believe we have the capacity to triple our scale, both in terms of the size of our fleet, of our membership base, and of our team, to prepare for increased demand. We aim to scale to every major city in the US and then expand globally. We invite anyone who believes in our vision of a more convenient and environmentally sustainable urban car ownership to join us as a shareholder.”zephyr