SILVERCAR AND AUDI

Audi Leads $28M Investment In Rental Startup Silvercar

Silvercar, a startup rethinking the auto rental experience in airports, already seems pretty tied to Audi — after all, every vehicle that Silvercar rents out is a silver Audi. Now the companies are deepening that relationship with a $28 million Series C investment.

Audi led the round, with the company’s North American president Scott Keogh joining Silvercar’s board of directors. Silvercar and Audi are also looking beyond airports with a new initiative called the Audi Shared Fleet, where businesses will be able to offer cars to employees on their corporate campuses.

“Silvercar represents not just the future of the car rental industry, but a vision for the future of mobility,” Keogh said in the funding release “We want to utilize the company’s strengths in technology and innovation to merge connectivity and mobility for today’s consumer.”

Silvercar has raised a total of $60 million in funding. Previous investors Austin Ventures and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin also participated in the new round.

The service doesn’t just offer every customer access to the same high-end vehicle. It also streamlines the reservation and payment process, allowing you to make bookings through a mobile app and unlock the car by just scanning a QR code.Writer Ryan Lawler (now sadly departed from TechCrunch) tried the service out three years ago in Dallas-Fort Worth, Silvercar’s very first airport. He came away impressed with “the ease of getting in and out of the airport rental dock,” and he suggested that business travelers, in particular, might be willing to pay a premium to get a better experience. (The exact pricing varies from market to market.)

The company says its business tripled in 2015, and it’s now launching in its twelfth market, Las Vegas, just in time for this week’s Consumer Electronics Show.

FEATURED IMAGE: SILVERCAR

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KINGFISH from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

THE KINGFISH

You may live as the King Fish in a small pond for as long as you wish but one thing you will never do is cause the pond to grow any larger. Therefore if you would truly reach your real mass you must swim for the sea.

IN NEED OF

IN NEED OF

I am in immediate need of the following things:

  1. BETA READERS for my fictional writings and novels and (if you wish) the poetry and songs that I intend to publish. I want only brutally honest opinions, and I want a wide range of readers/reader-types. (There will be no pay but I will exchange favors and see to it that you are provided with free copies of the finished works). Confidentiality regarding my writings will be expected of course, and I will restrict my beta readers to maybe 6 to 8 people, but I will treat you right.
  1. A good, decent, hard-working, and ambitious LITERARY AGENT (to match myself).
  1. An EMPLOYEE TEAM for my start-ups. (People to run the businesses, handle marketing, and run day to day operations while I and my partners handle funding and investors, etc.) More on that later.
  1. A TEAM OF BUSINESS BUILDERS/DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS (start-ups primarily but we may also handle brokerage and turn-arounds on rare occasions) to be put together to found and profit from new business ventures. More on that soon.
  1. PARTNERS to work with me on developing and designing (CAD and prototype designs) my inventions and app designs.
  1. GAME DESIGN PARTNERS who can take the games I’ve designed and/or written and either build physical products out of them or in the case of computer and video games program basic builds that we can use to pitch to game studios.

 

A brief word of explanation on the above:

Beta Readers – I tend to write my fictional works, short stories, and novels in the following genres: children’s stories, detective and mysteries, espionage, fantasy and myth, historical fiction, horror, and science fiction. My current novel is a high fantasy/myth about Prester John and the Byzantine Empire. I tend to insert a lot of historical and literary references into most of my works. I would not expect my Beta Readers to provide me with detailed critiques or edits, though if you wished to do so that’s up to you. I’m really just looking for basic opinions and do you like the plot, stories, works, etc., and do you have any advice for improvements? As I said I’m open to favor exchanges and free copies of my works.

Also, when it comes to my songs I write the lyrics but I have no real time right now for composing. If you are a composer or lyricist and you wish to enter into a song-writing partnership with me then we will split the credits and your contributions and shares of any successful songs will be protected by contract.

Literary Agent – I want a literary agent with a wide range of interests and one with whom I can develop both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. (I much prefer doing business with people I enjoy.) I want a literary agent who is ambitious, as I am, and one who can help me make my writings successful so that we may both profit handsomely.

Employee Team – more on this later but I’m looking for a good employee team as well as a strong, tight, efficient, and profitable team of administrators, managers, and officers.

Business Builder/Investor/Investment Team – more on this later but I need good people from all areas/sections of the country, and possibly members from outside the US, who can look realistically at start-ups and help develop and fund them into successful enterprises. Backgrounds in brokerage, business building and development, communications, entrepreneurship, investment, and deal-making most desired. But we can also look at other backgrounds. Realistically risk will be high, and loss always possible, but profits should be considerable on successful ventures. This will be both a business creation and development and investment team, sort of like an Investment Club but with a far wider range of interests and with more hands on developmental involvement.

Invention Partners – partners in design and prototyping and product development. We’ll start out with my inventions and maybe yours as well and possibly graduate to taking stakes in other inventions and related businesses if the idea seems solid and viable.

Game Design Partners – people who can take my game designs, and your own, and build programs or physical products out of them. Depending on how much you contribute we’ll take profit shares on sales of the games, regardless of whether it is by the game or we sell the designs outright. As with the inventions your work will always be attributed in the design and protected as a share of profit by contract.

Finally you should know that in working with me my very basic and fundamental Worldview is that I am a Christian by religion, spirituality, philosophy, and nature, a Conservative (with some strong Libertarian leanings) in cultural and political and social matters, and a Capitalist when it comes to economics and monetary affairs.

Therefore I am a disciple and proponent of the teachings of Christ (Truth, Justice, Personal Honor, Honesty, and Fair Treatment of all based on individual behavior are extremely important to me, and I tend to like Charity and Philanthropy), God is my mentor and my best friend, I am Conservative in nature and very much believe in Hard Work and Personal Effort and Individual Initiative and Self-Discipline, and I am pro-Business, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth. I also like to see people exploit their own talents and benefit and profit thereby. I set extremely high goals for both myself and others, and I expect much, but think I am fair and just to work with. I do discriminate and unapologetically so, but not regarding matters of background, class, race, or sex. I only discriminate between good and bad behavior, and between industry and laziness. As a boss or partner I will not long endure intentionally bad or destructive or self-destructive or foolish or apathetic behavior. I am not at all bothered by failure if you seek to improve and advance the next time.

If that all sounds fine by you and you are interested in any of these ventures then please contact me via email or by my Facebook or Linked-In pages or through my blogs or other webpages. We’ll begin Work.

WORKS IN PROGRESS

For the rest of this week I will not be posting any original content to this blog or any of my blogs. Recently, due to my work schedule and other obligations, I have had very little time to work on the overall construction and the technical aspects of my blog(s). I had planned to complete those aspects of my blogs long ago but other things kept interfering.

So this week I have decided to spend the entire week finishing my originally conceived construction-plans of my blogs to make it easier for new business partners, business writers, inventors, investors, manufacturers, and venture capitalists to find me and to communicate and work with me.

To that end I will spend the rest of the week finishing my original plans and retooling this site.

As I said, as it stands now I plan to add no more original content this week so as to finally finish my original designs without interruption or any more delays.

However you can still find a great deal of useful content in the various Categories already present on this blog, and on the Categories of all of my other blogs. Just pick the categories that interest you and browse at will. Uncategorized will allow you to find everything.

I will also be sharing useful articles, content, and posts I find on other sites as I run across them and time allows. But most of my time this week will be spent on blog development.

Thank you for being a Reader and Follower of my blogs, I appreciate your patronage and hope you find my blogs enjoyable, entertaining, and most especially, useful.

BUSINESS NARRATOR/BUSINESS NARRATION WRITER: Creative Non-Fiction to Help Your Business Grow

This article, which I shared with Launch Port, on business and corporate narration, has led me to the decision that I will now start offering my professional writing services for Business Narration. Or rather, to be more accurate and specific, that I will now add Business Narration to the list of business and writing services I offer my clients.

I am already an excellent storyteller and journalist, as well as a very good business and copy writer.

So combining those two capabilities and skills and fusing them into a single new service line only makes a great deal of sense to me.

So beginning in this year, 2015 AD, I will be offering my services as a Business Narrator to all of my clients, new and old. If you are an entrepreneur, a start-up venture, a company or corporation, or a long established business that would like to better communicate your story to the world then I will be happy to help you construct the Narrative of your business or venture so that you can effectively and profitably share it with others.

If you would like to see examples of my Work and Writings (including my Narrative Writings) then you may look here:

Launch Port

Wyrdwend

Tome and Tomb

The Missal

YOUR BRAND AND YOU – HOW TO BRAND YOURSELF AND YOUR COMPANY

I am not a particular fan of modern branding. Or I should say, the modern idea that branding should be a separate entity from the person or individual it brands.

Or to be even more accurate that a brand is something the person who developed the brand submits himself or herself to, regardless of whether the “Brand” actually and accurately reflects the individual’s nature, or whether the brand is upright, honest, and honorable. (Or for that matter whether the person behind the brand is upright, honest, and honorable.) This is not even to mention the modern idea that somehow a brand is a thing in itself and has some sort of imagined or separate value devoid of any real product or service backing the brand. Which is to me the real danger and disaster of so much modern “branding,” the idea that the brand is a thing of value in itself even when it has nothing of real value to back the brand.

However, that being said branding has always existed and always will. From Standard Oil/Petroleum to Walmart. From Old Farmer’s Almanac to SpaceX.

The question to me is not whether “branding exists” (either in modern form or in ancient form), or whether much of what passes as advice on modern branding is worthwhile or not (I suspect much of it is not, being construed in the way it is), but how to best go about the idea and process of developing and promoting your own brand.

Therefore, based upon my own experience with my personal process of having developed my own brands in the past, and with my current process of developing my own brand as both a writer of fiction and as an inventor, below is my advice regarding how to go about setting up your own brand, the types of things you should concern yourself with in creating your brand, and finally with the attributes your brand should encompass.

As for the final section of this post, your Personal Brand Attributes – these are, of course, the specific attributes and characteristics of your brand and what you want that brand to both entail and promote. It will vary with each person and each brand.

Some brands may focus upon customer service, some upon high quality product development, some upon rapidity of product delivery, some upon entirely unique collaborative or customer design. Whatever the particulars of your case may be develop a list of attributes you want your brand and/or your company to encapsulate. And work to achieve and make these attributes real in the body of your brand.

My list of Personal Brand Attributes for my Writings I have listed in this section. Many would be the same but some would be different for my business and for my inventions.

You cannot, of course, encompass all beneficial qualities of a thing in a single brand because certain attributes are competitive and resource consuming in nature (add to one and you basically subtract from another) but there is absolutely no reason your brand, be it personal or corporate, cannot encompass many beneficial qualities and attributes.

As a matter of fact, it should.

 

PERSONAL BRANDING

In branding yourself do not make your brand in any way alien to or different from your actual and best nature, but rather let your brand flow naturally from the best true qualities of your own Character, Nature, and Personality.

Later, as you Incorporate and grow yourself and your creations into a self-sufficient, self-sustaining Business let your Business both reflect your Personal Brand and allow your business or corporation to exceed your Personal Brand so that your business can develop a Brand of its own.

However only let your Business or Corporate Brand be of the Highest Character and Nature, paralleling your own brand.

1. Pursue useful personal idiosyncrasies and imperfections
2. Be immanently and immediately relatable to as many people as possible
3. Be unique in both execution and style
4. Create a Unique Signature, Logo, and/or Mark and Symbol
5. Have an Individual and Easily Recognized Name or Moniker
6. Protect your Copyrights, Trademarks, and Intellectual Properties (of all kinds)
7. Take Appropriate Risks and take them often
8. Be Profitable and Well-Disciplined and Well-Managed
9. Market Cleverly, Consistently, and Well
10. Hire Excellent and Reliable and Upright Agents and Representatives and employ them consistently on your own behalf
11. Take on Big and important Projects as well as Personal and Intimate Ones
12. Constantly Practice, Study, and Improve yourself
13. Keep Careful and Useful Notes on all Good Ideas
14. Execute Promptly and Completely – Focus on one thing at a time and finish what you start
15. Network and Collaborate – build your Community and Base and treat them respectfully and with loyalty
16. Develop a “Personal Legend” around yourself based upon your own best individual Qualities, Character, Personality, and Nature. Eliminate as much as humanly possible your own failings, vices, and weaknesses. Guard your reputation like a treasure.

IN ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR BRAND BE HONEST AND HONORABLE AND SERVICE ORIENTED

PERSONAL BRAND ATTRIBUTES

Those aspects of your brand that you want to make most directly associated with yourself and your brand

Charitable
Driven and Determined
Fearless
Friendly and Personable
Godly
Highly Honorable and Honest
Intelligent
Meticulous
Moral
Optimistic
Polymathic/Renaissance Man or Corporation
Pragmatic
Precise and Scientific
Problem-Solver
Prolific
Purpose-Driven
Relentless
Risk-Taker
Visionary
Virtuous
Wise

THE WAY OF SUCCESS

Here Are The Epiphanies That Made Panera A $4.5 Billion Restaurant Chain

In 1980, Ron Shaich was just a 20-something kid looking for a way to draw customers into his single cookie store in downtown Boston.

Today, he is the founder and CEO of Panera Bread Co., which has nearly 2,000 locations in the US and Canada, 80,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.

Through a series of ah-ha moments and happy accidents, Shaich took a simple idea — sandwiches, soups, and salads that people feel good about eating — and built it into a dominant American brand.

It wasn’t always easy. The company started as Au Bon Pain, and Panera was just one of its divisions. In 1998, Shaich made the difficult decision to sell off most of the business and bet on the little-sister brand Panera. He also stepped back from his role as CEO four years ago. The time away made him realize all the ways the company was vulnerable, and he wrote a 20-page memo about how he would destroy Panera if he was a competitor.

Shaich sat down with Business Insider to talk about how he got here, the single most important strategy in Panera’s success, and what’s next for the business.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Business Insider: When did you first want to be an entrepreneur? 

Ron Shaich: In college, I was the treasurer of the student body and came up with the idea of launching our own nonprofit convenience store. We ended up building it, and for a kid who couldn’t dance or sing, I found the creation of this store the most creative thing I ever did in my entire life. I loved it. I began to realize that business was creative and a way to make a difference in the world.

BI: How did Panera get its start?

RS: I went to business school. I tried to figure out my life. I ended up in D.C., running a chain of cookie stores for a large company. I established that this is the food I want to eat and created a single cookie store in downtown Boston in 1980. By late ’80, I had 50,000 people a day coming in, but no one bought cookies before noon. So I decided to put in French baked goods, and I became a licensee of a classic French bakery called Au Bon Pain.

They were the most screwed up vendor I ever dealt with — sometimes they delivered, sometimes they didn’t. I went to them with a proposal to merge the businesses. In February of ’81, I took on their debt, their three stores, and my one. And, after a number of iterations, that became Panera today.

BI: What was the moment when everything clicked for Panera?

RS: In 1984 I had an epiphany. I’d been working in the bakery, and people would walk in and say, “I want that baguette. Slice it from top to bottom.” So I do and hand them the loaf, and they pulled out a bag of deli meat and some cheese and made a sandwich out of it. You didn’t have to be a marketing whiz to recognize it was an opportunity in sandwiches.

panera bread tomato soupPanera Bread In the early ’90s, Shaich decided to shift to serving soup, salad, and sandwiches.

We said, “Let’s be the platform to sell soup, salad, and sandwiches.” It took off from Day 1. In 1991, we took it public, and by 1996, we had evolved to a thesis that I call “decomodification,” today called “fast casual.” Then, the contemporary paradigm of fast food was a lot of food for not a lot of money. We recognized that there was a large niche, say 30% to 40% of the market, that wanted something more special. It was not simply how much food they got for the money, but the quality of the food and how they felt about themselves eating there.

Then I had another epiphany. I was sitting on the beach in 1999 and thought, “Wow, for every 100 guys who talk about having a dominant brand, one makes it. Maybe one out of 1,000.” It’s so hard. Panera was one of four divisions. Somebody said to me: “What would you do if Panera owned Au Bon Pain and not the other way around?” I said, “This thing is a gem. If I had any guts, I’d take myself and the very best people we had, and I’d let it fulfill its destiny.” So I did it.

BI: Just like that? How did it feel to say goodbye to most of what you’d built? 

RS: The next few years of selling everything else off but Panera were the most horrible years of my life. Au Bon Pain was my first child. It’s only in retrospect that these decisions feel OK. When you’re going through them, if you’re honest, they’re horrible and difficult. Bottom line, I did it. We made the bet on Panera.

BI: If you could pinpoint one strategy, what do you think made Panera so successful? 

RS: What sustains a company over the long term is how it thinks, not what it does. Because what is does is a byproduct of how it thinks. Panera in its core comes from a view that competitive advantage is everything. If we don’t have a reason for people to walk past competitors and come to Panera, then we don’t exist. Losing competitive advantage is the greatest risk in business, and that’s where our focus is.

Ron Shaich servingPanera/David ElmesRon Shaich serves a customer in a Panera Cares cafe, the nonprofit arm of Panera offering pay-what-you-can prices.

BI: How do you stay ahead of the curve?

RS: I view my role as CEO as protecting those that discover ways to build competitive advantage. Often, when businesses first start up, they’re driven by people who discover new ways of doing things. They’re able to best the competition because they’re clearly disruptive and better. Then they get larger, and behind Discovery People come Delivery People, and they speak a different language.

Discovery is the language of what could be, of where the world is going. Delivery is the language of what happened yesterday, of limited risk. And in most companies that scale, you eventually wake up and realize you have tremendous delivery muscle and no discovery muscle, no ability to regenerate competitive advantage.

Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith, making sure the company is there when the future arrives.

BI: After being CEO for decades, you stepped down from the role about four years ago. Why did you come back?

panera bread customers Reuters“Competitive advantage is everything,” Shaich says.

RS: I didn’t step down; I stepped back. I became executive chairman. Instead of six days a week, I spent three days a week on Panera.

My mind started racing one weekend, and I sat down at the typewriter and wrote a 20-page memo about how I would compete with Panera if I weren’t Panera. I undertook this vision and, after a year, found myself working 60 to 70 hours per week on it!

Panera has 80,000 employees and serves 10 million people a week. I’m back as CEO because I ultimately concluded it’s the most powerful platform I have to make a difference in the world.

BI: A lot of leaders talk about the need to carve out time to think about the big picture. How do you do it?

RS: I go to the beach every Christmas, and every year I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there.

BI: What’s an example of one?

RS: In my 50s, having never really exercised, I realized if I don’t do it now, I never will. I committed to it and hired a trainer to help me. I’ve been at it for over eight years, and I’m in better shape today than I was 20 years ago.

BI: Is that how you approach business strategy? You have annual think sessions?

RS: That’s exactly how it works! We sit down every year and try to figure out where we want to be in five years. How do we stay competitive? What do we have to do to ensure we feed the growth monster that goes with being a public company? And then we literally draft on paper what we want to achieve in the next 12 months.

Ron Shaich 2Panera/David Elmes“Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith,” says Shaich.

Good strategy is continually changing. Strategy begins with where we think the world is going. Innovation begins with understanding what job you’re trying to complete for whom, and then determining what matters to that audience, looking for patterns, and trying to understand it. That’s hard work; that’s in the details.

BI: Tell me about the Panera 2.0 initiative.

RS: We’ve been working on it for four years. It brings together a range of technologies, and it’s meant to change the guest experience. If you’re coming to eat in, you simply walk in, sit down at a table, and use your phone to place an order. That order goes up into the cloud and comes back down to our kitchen, goes to our production systems, and the food is delivered directly to you.

Alternatively, if you want the order to go, you can place it from your office, from a kiosk in the café — anywhere you like — you just walk in and that food is waiting for you at a designated time. We’ve made this major commitment to technology.

BI: Panera was among the first retailers to integrate Apple Pay into stores. Why did you decide this was something you wanted to be a part of?

RS: Anything that offers convenience to our guests would only be good. We already have a very significant digital presence, and we’re moving aggressively in that direction.

BI: Is this something your customers have shown an interest in?

apple payJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesPanera is aggressively incorporating new technologies into its service.

RS: What customers want are things that add joy and value to their lives. They don’t want another app; they don’t want more technology. What they want are things that make their lives easier.

Apple Pay offers the potential to be significantly easier for those carrying their iPhone 6s. All you have to do is tap it and you’ve paid. It also offers a very high level of security, since there is no transfer of the credit card number. On both of those fronts, it offers the potential for ease and joy and a reduction of friction, and those are positives for the guests. 

BI: What advice would you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?

RS: If you can do something to get somebody excited — not everybody — but if you can be the best for somebody, then you can win. What it’s all about is figuring out what you can do for somebody that nobody else can do better.

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