You may not have heard about Tesloop, a Santa Monica-based start-up that can ferry up to five passengers in a Tesla Model X SUV.
The company, less-than-a-year-old, is already offering rides between about 30 cities in Southern California, plus routes reaching Las Vegas and Phoenix.
This service is the brainchild of a near-child, Haydn Sonnad, who came up with the Tesloop after he turned 16, which was just a year ago.
Faced with the age-old teen question of “How can I get my own car?”, Sonnad decided he could pay for a Tesla lease and its insurance coverage by driving people to Las Vegas and back.
According to the Tesloop “origin” story, Haydn’s took advantage of Tesla’s “Happiness Guarantee” policy and the free SuperCharger stations to make the plan work. The electric car’s Autopilot feature further bolstered Sonnad’s business plan, allowing him to safely make it through the long monotonous stretches of desert highway.
Sonnad even trekked to a Tesla Motors shareholders meeting to ask Tesla founder Elon Musk about the car’s autopilot feature.
Soon after that, Sonnad approached a bunch of entrepreneurs to turn his idea into a full-fledged start-up. The founding team, which includes Haydn’s father, Rahul, who serves as the company CEO, received seed funding from Clearstone Ventures, along with angel investments from Facebook, Allen & Co, and Tesla Motors.
Tesloop has two Teslas. The rides can be booked online at Tesloop.com or by phone. (The company is working on an app, of course.) Trips typically cost $99 for a one-way to Las Vegas and $59 to Palm Springs.
Passengers also get access to a selection of amenities like wifi, noise-cancelling headphones and even a pillow menu. And for those conscious about their environmental impact while traveling, Tesla’s zero-emission technology will put their carbon footprint fears at ease.
In the next few years, Tesloop hopes to expand to more cities where Tesla Superchargers exist, as well as offer free driving on any Tesloop route for people who join Tesloop’s Pilot’s Club. Its expansion plans start in So Cal with Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Orange County, then Northern California (San Francisco to Sonoma and Wine Country). Next up are Arizona, Washington, Texas, and southern Florida.
Its drivers, referred to in the Tesla lingo as pilots, are fully trained in driving the cars, including its autopilot function, and also undergo background and screening tests.
Ironically, Haydn Sonnad was not allowed to drive his own Tesla after Tesloop was founded because he couldn’t get a commercial insurance policy due to his age. That changed in June, though he’s not driving passengers and is instead chief evangelist officer.
The high school senior's effort to find a stylish, sustainable way to cruise between Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas may have spawned a business model that could be emulated worldwide.
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