Liigu Gets Serious About an Alternative to Car Ownership - Autonomy
The Business of Mobility is a series of articles featuring business leaders in sustainable mobility.
Q&A with Annemari Muru (CEO of Liigu) and Ross Douglas (Founder at Autonomy)
Liigu is a contactless car rental and sharing service that was founded in Estonia in August, 2021. The app-based service is available in seven cities across southern and western Europe. Liigu is Estonian for move .
Annemari Muru, CEO of Liigu
Ross : You are a very new startup; how did Liigu come about?
Annemari : It all began on 1 August 2021. I was in Business Process Manager position at Car Rental Gateway Ltd who are building B2B car rental connectivity platforms. When they built a customer-facing product, they wanted to try it out in a real business environment. They asked if I’d be interested in taking on the challenge, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Ross : Liigu is described as contactless car sharing and car rental. How exactly would you describe yourselves?
Annemari : Ultimately, we are a car provider and consider ourselves as a service company. We are not only competing against car rental companies, we’re also competing against the ownership model. Our bigger vision is to prove to the market that renting and subscription is more convenient and sustainable than owning it.
Ross : But for now it seems you are mostly covering short-term rentals…
Annemari : We started off in short-term rental, but we are now testing the subscription model: monthly and long-term subscriptions. As a third option, we are considering an on-demand free-floating option, which will take time to deliver. It’s about building a flexible platform that can handle various use-cases depending on what the customer is looking for. But usage of car should be like any other service, whether you need it for hours or months. And as easy as buying a carton of milk.
Ross : I noticed two things on the website, one is that your prices are good and the other is that you are very much based at the airport.
Annemari : Unlike traditional car rental firms, we were born digital, as a platform, and thus we don’t have the extra cost of physical infrastructure. We are able to save time, money and hassle for the customer by handling identification, contracting, payment, as well as keys, at all hours, via the app. Depending on the availablilty of the cars, it cold be within 15 minutes of deciding to use our service, when you’ll be driving away. Your phone is your key; and the entire customer-journey is handled on the app. Compared to procedures at desk-based rentals, we save at least 30minutes of your time, and with queues at peak hours even up to 1.5h.
In terms of the airport presence, we’re creating a niche for ourselves with business travellers and tourists who may need to cross national borders. And, all our vehicles are automatic transmission, which is attractive for US visitors.
Ross : Is the success of Liigu all about having the best tech?
Annemari : Originally we looked at simply offering the software service, without bothering with having our own fleet. But we found that market wasn’t quite ready for that. We decided that if we’re going to disrupt the stagnated business models, we need to build our own customer base and to do the unsexy stuff as well (like inspecting and prepping the vehicles).
Ross : It seems in IoT that companies are realising not everything can be turned into an AI process.
Annemari : Yes, the trick is to automate those things which can be automated and then have excellent personal service—with a real live person behind the screen—for when the customer needs it. Remember the Zappos (online retail) story. Under Tony Hsieh the company had this obsession with personalised customer care, which proved a very successful strategy. I really believe that in uncertain or problematic situations, it is crucial to provide the notion of security to people.
Ross : Yes, I see from your Google reviews that many customers love the fact that you respond immediately and helpfully should they need it.
Annemari : User-friendly and straightforward, that’s how our customers describe us. There is one thing we won’t replace with AI and that’s customer support. We want our customers know that they are being taken care of. If there is a problem to be solved, then we make sure there is an actual person to solve it. Our support team is on hand 24/7.
Ross : How are you funded?
Annemari : We’re running on angel investor capital and are currently prepping for a fresh round of fundraising.
Ross : Why should a big player partner with you?
Annemari : With minimal resources—in just over a year—we’ve established first-mover advantage in a niche area. We have a strong business case, with excellent customer engagement. We are looking to collaborate with a company that has the resources but would like to invest in something that is quicker, flexible, more modern. We have a strong case for scaling up our operations; there is great potential for a strategic partner who can complement our business model and share in the benefits of a cool, young, growing brand.
Ross : How big is your fleet?
Annemari : We are currently at around 300 vehicles, reaching up to 700 soon and with new orders we’ll be reaching 1,500 by the end of the year.
Ross : Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Annemari : As you know, running a start-up takes energy and attitude. I may look a little zany in the Liigu marketing pic, but I’ve got a serious side to me. I’m something of a perfectionist, and—believe it or not—I subscribe to stoicism. I think it was Marcus Aurelius who said, “You have power over your mind—not outside events.” I am excited to lead a small, diverse team of 19 people united in their professionalism, their commitment to hard work, while also sharing fun experiences. We have an agile attitude and we’re dedicated to creating an agile platform that provides vehicles for customers the way they want it: whether that’s for minutes, hours, or months.
Ross : Thank you Annemari; all of us in mobility can endorse your vision for a sustainable and convenient alternative to owning a car.