Alejandro Betancourt On The Ridesharing Market in Spain and the Future Impact of AI
Auro Travel has become hugely successful in Spain’s ride-sharing market over the last couple of years. It’s moving quickly towards a sustainable operation and is highly focused on changing customer expectations in personal transportation. Alejandro Betancourt, founder of Auro and its biggest shareholder, has been heavily involved in this business since he started it in 2017. During this time, he has developed strong ideas on the factors that will determine success in ridesharing, including the impact of AI.
Factors for Success
Betancourt considers the human element to be the most important factor in a company’s success. That’s because it’s possible to have many ideas for a business, but you need the right executives to implement them effectively. As Betancourt says, “The right executors or executives that take these ideas into something real and convert them into something pragmatic and real is what matters.” He adds that even a great idea will never be put into action without the right leaders behind it.
Betancourt also looks for founding team members with a strong drive, who are always working. In addition, they need to believe in what they’re doing, with a focus on finding solutions rather than problems. The ability to find solutions quickly keeps the creative momentum going, especially in a young company.
Consumer preferences have proven particularly important to Auro’s success. The ride-sharing market can be very different between countries, even between cities within the same country. This general rule is particularly true in Spain, where ridesharing is highly regulated. Simply providing quality transportation services isn’t enough for such a business to succeed, as it must also negotiate the legal landscape. This aspect of ridesharing is very challenging in Spain, as the regulations can change quickly.
This environment has proved to be an advantage for Auro, which is based in Spain. In comparison, this company’s primary competitors are multinational corporations like Cabify and Uber, who must learn the regulatory compliance requirements in Spain before expanding into that market. Alejandro Betancourt had a clear vision for success when he founded the company, which was based on acquiring as many ride-sharing licenses as possible before the market consolidated. This strategy differentiated Auro from its competitors, who had a much higher barrier of entry because they entered the market later. In addition, Auro created an infrastructure centered around drivers that have placed it in a highly advantageous position.
Impact of AI
Alejandro Betancourt is always looking for new technologies that will provide a competitive advantage, such as artificial intelligence (AI). This capability has the potential to impact the ridesharing market in many ways, from the software applications used to request services to self-driving cars. Interaction with the platform and drivers is a significant element where AI can affect ridesharing, but it should also be done in a way that benefits everyone. Betancourt believes this process will occur in stages due to its controversial nature, saying “You don’t want to get people out of work by having a car drive itself. So, it’s an issue that has to be very, very closely looked at and be a win-win instead of a win-lose situation for society.”
It’s possible for a ride-sharing company to save a lot of money with self-driving cars, but it would also leave the driver out of a job. Like other new technologies, AI must be implemented in a way that replaces the jobs it removes while also providing more efficient service. For example, AI could assist the platform in identifying the best route to take passengers to their destination.
Emerging technologies have been destroying and creating jobs since the Industrial Revolution began, so there’s nothing new about AI in that regard. The general acceptance of new technology requires society to view it as a win-win, so it has to be properly presented. The world must be able to see the upsides of these technologies as well as their downsides. Auro remains highly focused on implementing AI in a way that creates more jobs than it destroys, while also creating value for the stakeholders.
Betancourt founded Auro Travel in 2017 after developing a vision for ridesharing in Spain earlier than potential competitors. He acquired about 2,000 ride-hailing licenses in that country before there was even a market for such services. As Betancourt explains, “We foresaw a time, like today, when these licenses would be very desirable. It was a high-risk bet because we weren’t certain that market conditions would change in our favor, but we felt it was an important bet.”
Auro currently has over 2,000 vehicles, making it the largest private fleet in Spain. Its drivers are usually independent operators who can choose their own hours, typically as ride hails in large cities like Madrid and Barcelona. However, Auro also retains its own dedicated drivers who provide private car services throughout Spain.
Betancourt created a division of Auro called Arrow shortly after founding the company. The purpose of this division is to lease the ride-sharing licenses that Auro doesn’t use to other firms that want to operate in Spain. Madrid is currently the country’s strongest ride-sharing market, but Barcelona, Malaga, and Valencia are growing rapidly. Auro is developing its own app so that it also can become a direct ride-sharing operator, rather than simply providing licenses to other companies. This shift will be needed if Auro is to expand into other countries and challenge the major transportation players in Europe, as Betancourt intends.
Auro’s app is currently in its beta version, meaning that anyone can download and test it, although it hasn’t launched yet. Betancourt wants to ensure the app is much better than that of Auro’s competitors before it enters the direct ride-sharing market. In addition, managing resources is of primary importance until travel restrictions are completely lifted in Europe.
Betancourt remains enthusiastic about private transportation; he believes the rate of private vehicle ownership has peaked, largely due to a growing awareness of its environmental impact. The desire to reduce carbon emissions will drive greater use of public transportation and other means of sharing rides.