Although it had to share headlines with a deadly pandemic and hotly contested presidential campaign, America’s ongoing struggle against racism was also a major story in 2020. And that includes over at the peer-to-peer car-sharing company Turo. “To be honest with you, we’ve had some really incredibly vocal and charismatic Black leaders within Turo who shared with us some really insightful data about the lack of access to capital, the average black American, and how that community, generally speaking, is really at a disadvantage in terms of accessing capital compared to any other community in the US,” explained Turo CEO Andre Haddad.
Which is why Turo created a pilot program called the Seed Initiative. The company has teamed up with microloan provider Kiva to provide interest-free loans of up to $15,000 to fund Black entrepreneurs in 14 US cities so that they can use the platform to start car rental businesses. Successful applicants can crowdfund up to $7,500 on Kiva, which Turo will match dollar for dollar.
“I’ve always been enamored by the impact that our platform has on anyone who becomes a host [the term for someone who loans out vehicles on Turo]—the fact that they can start turning the car away from just being a depreciating cost center into an asset that generates cash and helps pay for itself,” Haddad said. “But in order to be able to participate and create that economic value, you have first to have a car. And unfortunately, there are lots of people who just can’t afford to even buy a car, and therefore can’t even access the marketplace,” he told me recently by phone.