Silvercar CEO, Luke Schneider, on Creating, Evolving & Expanding

Darren Johnson via FLICKR
Luke Schneider CEO of Silvercar

Luke Schneider
CEO of Silvercar

Luke Schneider is the CEO of Silvercar. His career spans multiple entrepreneurial pursuits and innovative car companies including Flexcar and Zipcar. He joined Silvercar in 2012 as CEO to help revolutionize the rental experience for the technology-enabled traveler. Luke has been a FoundersCard Member since 2013.

What was your first entrepreneurial endeavor?

It seems hilarious now, but my first entrepreneurial endeavor was a clear acrylic plastic home furnishing called “The Remote Island”. I became disgusted one afternoon, as a freshman in high school, at the 3 or 4 remote controls cluttering our coffee table (TV, VCR, set top box, Atari?). So I designed an elegant curved plastic holder, optimally angled to maximize wireless connectivity (!) that held all the remotes in one place. Sold it through TV Guide. Now that seems like a century ago!

Who is someone that inspires you?

The number is too high to count, but someone who has always been at the top of that list is Teddy Roosevelt. I like TR because in his speeches and his actions he courageously believed in what he was doing, More importantly he believed that the most important thing was to be “in the arena” fighting the battle, not watching from the sidelines, critiquing the players. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who take the risk, confront uncertainty, trust in their abilities and do things, not just observe or comment on things. A copy of TR’s 1910 speech “The Critic” is the single item I have brought with me to every job I’ve ever had.

Congrats on your recent funding announcement—as you continue to expand, what are some of your biggest challenges?

From where I sit, the biggest challenge will be to preserve and build our culture. Until you have the responsibility of being a CEO you don’t realize the profound impact a positive culture has on every aspect of the early stage business. We, as a company tend to focus on getting products and experiences right, delighting customers, and demonstrating the power of our vision. All that bias to action can sometimes leave culture lower on the priority list than we’d like. As we move through this, and future inflection points, ensuring we demonstrate the same values and reinforce the healthy culture at Silvercar will be at the top of my list.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

I think the most important thing for young entrepreneurs to have is focus. I say it all the time: it’s not lack of capital that kills startups, it’s lack of bandwidth. If the idea is good enough, there will be plenty of time to leverage it out to other aspects of the market. Stick to your knitting in the early stage and give yourself the opportunity to expand focus once you have the credibility of the core idea’s success. As a short corollary to that, earned media is an ultra powerful way to promote your business, but don’t believe your press clippings, and strive always to maintain humility. The world of successful entrepreneurs is full of people who did not carry Apple to the promised land on their back. Sometimes amid all that “dreaming big” young entrepreneurs can forget that the goal is to successfully start (and usually exit) an early stage company and create tremendous value.

We’ve taken note of your recent expansion into Miami and Phoenix. What’s next up for Silvercar?

2015 will see Silvercar expanding at 1-2 new airports per month, but also it will see our technology and operations platforms begin to power shared personal transportation beyond the airport for the first time. It’s a very exciting year ahead, we believe, highlighting our unique vision for changing the way the world hits the road.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A crotchety, old, horn-rimmed glasses wearing executive at Ford Motor Company (where I cut my teeth) once lambasted me for running around with what he called “100 blunt objects” in my head. “Schneider, you gotta get your $#!+ together, pick 5 or 6 of those ideas and sharpen them if you ever want to be successful!” In his charming way he was telling me that being creative only really matters if you have the ability to convert ideas into real things. Ideal advice for a would-be entrepreneur, I’d say, even if it came from an unlikely source.

What is one book or Mobile App (other than Silvercar) that you would recommend?

This will seem odd coming from a technology guy, but my recommendation is a book – “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. From the first time I read it, to my many subsequent re-readings it gives me a sense of calm reflection, and a perspective on work, life, humanity, even spirituality. As with many books about philosophy the primary metaphor is a journey, but its explorations of concepts that seem to have been forgotten or simply drowned out in our noisy, accelerated society provide a kind of sustenance for the soul. In the end, as the subtitle says, it is “an inquiry into values”. I think values are the common thread that help us create world class companies as well as world class lives.

What do you do and/or where do you go to get away from it all?

I’m fortunate in that my wife and twin boys share my love of the natural world. We are kind of National Park junkies, right down to the passports with stamps from the ranger stations at the parks we visit. There is little more satisfying to me than an early morning hike, or a cup of coffee taken in a beautiful natural setting. If it’s just me, I like to make things. Building furniture, restoring an old car or even just cooking a meal all help make time away from work restorative, relaxing and rich.

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