”I was in need of a sounding board and a helpline. I found that safety net at Birdhouse.”
Always thought that a private chauffeur is the privilege of kings, presidents, ministers and CEOs? Guess again. Birdhouse start-up Get Driven engages students to drive business people, lawyers, architects, site managers, etc. to the office, home or appointments during the workday. “We win time for businesses. We turn lost hours behind the wheel into productive hours again.”
As a student himself,Gunther Ghysels worked for a company that did on a small scale what Get Driven does today. “I was always convinced that there is a much bigger market for private drivers. Especially for businesses. People are losing a lot of time in the car today. You can make a few phone calls when you’re stuck in traffic, but that’s where it ends. For the rest, it’s all waiting and cursing. All that lost time costs companies and our economy billions.”
The idea behind Get Driven is simple: save time. If you manage to turn some of those lost hours into real working hours, everyone will be happy.
“Companies get more productive employees. But the employees themselves also benefit. The hours they work between appointments, or on the way home or to work, they no longer have to make up for at another time.“
‘Uber is not a competitor, the train is. In theory.’
The principle of Get Driven is simple. If you need a ride, you just have to register it on the digital platform. Drivers who are registered on the platform can then select the rides that depart from their neighbourhood.
First come, first served
Get Driven’s digital platform, which works completely autonomously, is reminiscent of Uber. But this is where the comparison ends, according to Gunther. “For starters, you get driven around in your own car. You also pay by the hour: €22.50, or slightly less if you use a subscription plan. And our drivers all have employment contracts.”
Uber is not really a competitor for us. We focus on longer distances, between different cities.
“Our drivers travel an average of about 150 kilometres anyway. For such distances, a taxi is unaffordable and it’s not Uber’s scope either. In theory, the train is our main competitor. But then again, they are not reliable or comfortable enough in Belgium, and the service is not flexible enough.”
From meeting to meeting, from yard to yard
Get Driven only works for companies. The obvious target groups are the business people, the decision makers, confirms Gunther Ghysels. “They hire us for commuting, but equally to drive them from one meeting to the next. On the way, they can prepare their presentation, answer emails, rehearse their pitch again. But lawyers or doctors also call on us.”
“The construction industry is also an important market for Get Driven. We often spend a whole day on the road with architects or contractors. If they can make their report in between two shipyard visits, they don’t have to do it in the office and they can visit more shipyards. That makes a huge difference at the end of the month.”
Hear, see, silence
Get Driven works mainly with students, Gunther explains. “Our rates are geared towards students looking to earn a penny on the side. We do have a few other profiles, such as a photographer who can edit photos on his laptop while he waits in the parking lot for his passenger’s meeting to end. But those are the exceptions. The vast majority of our drivers are students.”
Those students are subjected to rigorous testing. “We have some general conditions: be at least 21, have your driver’s license for at least two years, a clean record, things like that. Anyone who wants to drive for Get Driven must first survive a full day of testing. Compare it to your practical driving test, but with an extra focus on defensive and comfortable driving.”
“The single most important trait of a Get Driven driver is discretion. Clients want to work, they don’t hire a driver for smalltalk. You see and hear a lot as a driver: confidential phone calls, secret meetings, … The driver is often the best informed, it’s the same with politicians or CEOs. But you should be able to keep all that to yourself. Trust is the basis of our customer relationships. Hear, see and speak no evil.”
Centipede seeks. sounding board and helpline
Gunther stomped Get Driven out of the ground when he was 24. ”I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family, I really had to start from scratch. That’s the main reason why I wanted to get into Birdhouse at all costs: I wanted to learn as much as possible.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades, I’ve learned in recent years. But I knew very little about many aspects of entrepreneurship and I was also only a founder. I needed a sounding board and a helpline. The safety net I was looking for I also found at Birdhouse.”
”I was in need of a sounding board and a helpline. The safety net I was looking for I also found at Birdhouse.”
Today, Get Driven counts more than 2,000 companies as customers. Some 350 drivers make more than 1,000 journeys a month. Abroad beckons, says Gunther. “We’ve already explored the possibilities in Stockholm and Lisbon, but there we found that we can’t just launch Get Driven everywhere. We bring our clients mainly from city X to city Y, and then further to city Z or back to city X. From Lisbon to Porto it takes 3 hours, from Stockholm to Malmö 5 hours.
You don’t just go back and forth by car like you do between Antwerp and Ghent. Because economic life is concentrated in the capital, most journeys are made within the city, and then other modes of transport are more appropriate. Our distances should be neither too small nor too large. Germany, that’s a perfect country, our ideal next market.”