Carrot must have known it was doing something right when Mexico City’s Head of Government and Head of the Ministry of Environment helped it launch its carsharing service in 2012. The reason they were there? Nine million people live in Mexico City, with vehicle ownership growing 4.2 percent annually. Its heavily congested streets aren’t just bad for the environment, they’re bad for business. For the politicians in attendance at the launch, Carrot represents a sustainable alternative to car ownership that mitigates traffic and pollution. For Carrot’s co-founders, it was an opportunity for the new entrepreneurs to remove one percent of Mexico City’s cars, improve mobility in the city, and contribute to improving the environment.
In 2011, co-founder Diego Solórzano was working for real estate company LaSalle Investment Management in Mexico City. He had an idea and applied to Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology’s (ITAM) postgraduate entrepreneur program to pursue it. As part of the program, students are required to create a startup business plan. His idea: Mexico’s first car sharing service. Solórzano modeled his startup after Zipcar. Customers can reserve a fuel-efficient car, like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, via the web or through Carrot’s Android or iOS app, and are available at locations within Mexico City, Monterrey, and Puebla. That same year Solórzano and co-founder Jimena Pardo raised $15,000 in seed capital from the Venture Institute, and threw in $30,000 of their own cash and tested a beta version of the platform. Encouraged by positive results, Carrot officially launched in 2012. That same year, Endeavor selected the co-founders as High-Impact Entrepreneurs.
Carrot next partnered with Ecobici, a public bike sharing system managed by Mexico City. The partnership gave Carrot access to Ecobici’s 120,000 customers. People using bikes might naturally turn to a service like Carrot when two wheels won’t do. Carrot also has an agreement with the city for special parking permits and free promotion. Sometimes it pays to be the first service of your kind in an emerging market.
In 2014, with 4,000 customers and the worldwide car-sharing market growing at 75 percent year over year, Carrot raised $2 million in its Series B round.
In an interview, Solórzano said, “To be a successful entrepreneur in Mexico, you need three things. One: Entrepreneurship is collaborative, and no one can do it alone, so make sure you have access to advisors with more experience than you. Two: There will always be problems. This never ends, so your ability to solve problems is key. Three: There will always be skepticism for any new project, but get it off the ground and start proving that you can get customers and grow your business. Prove it as fast and cheaply as you can, then scale from there.”
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