If you were a billionaire and had an ensemble of cars lined up in your drive-way, would you give that up to drive an Uber?
Well, Paul English would. The former Co-founder of KAYAK, a successful fare-aggregator and travel search engine, sold his business for $1.78 billion to Priceline in 2012 and is currently behind the wheels of an UberX – a Tesla SP85.
Image : bostonmagazine.com
Paul’s idea of driving an Uber came when he saw that that almost ninety percent of his meetings and outings were with professionals from either tech or non-profits. Thus, he realised the need to broaden his horizons, and inspiration struck on one Halloween night when, clad in a fierce Vampire costume, he drove the Tesla for the first time from midnight to 2 am.
"People thought it was kind of hilarious that someone dressed up like a vampire was driving a Tesla,” said Paul. (as stated in Inc.com)
Paul never reveals his identity when he’s carrying a passenger. When anyone asks him about his profession, he tells them that he is an engineer and leaves it at that. He prefers to hear the diverse stories of the many passengers he drives. He keeps a notebook on him at all times, where he profusely scribbles down notes on any relevant and important information the passengers may disclose.
According to Paul, this is all a big part of research for his new startup, Lola. “We’re rethinking how people book travel, from how they conceive travel, whom they get advice from, where to go, how much work it takes to book it. I always said, even when we were at Kayak, that we sucked less than other websites. I was trying to make it simple, but even with Kayak, there was some work involved,” he said in another article by Inc.com.
One of his most interesting encounters was with a 13-year old school-girl from China, who was visiting different Schools in Boston, Paul’s hometown, where he zooms around in his Tesla. The girl was checking out of some of Boston’s popular schools hoping that it would increase her chances of attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where ironically, Paul is a part-time professor who holds entrepreneurship lectures at the business school. Quite naturally, the girl had a hard time believing that this Uber Driver was really a professor at MIT. To this, Paul had only one retort – “I live many lives.”
Being a part of the Uber service has taught Paul how service-economy professionals are rated. This data is imperative for building his soon-to-be-launched startup. Lola will act as a travel agent service where agents will set up itineraries for consumers, and these consumers will then rate these itineraries from one to five, reflecting the same structure as Uber.
Paul himself has received a 4.97 rating overall for his Uber service and has been heard pondering over why it isn’t a perfect five. As for Lola, he explains why he tries to reflect the Uber structure – “I want my agents to be competitive. Having ratings allows you to say, ‘I want to get better’.”
As for his latest and quirkiest goal, Paul speaks about a famous bar that is right next to his office. He says that he wouldn’t mind going behind the counter and serving as bartender, because “it would be a cool way to get to know new people.”
We certainly look forward to seeing what Lola has to offer.
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