You won’t find a Kyte rental car kiosk at an airport. The two-year old startup does its business online, delivering and retrieving vehicles wherever the customer happens to be. Its long-range plan is to have autonomous vehicles drop themselves off and return to the lot without a driver.
Those are big ideas and investors are taking them very seriously. The San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday a $30 million Series A funding round led by Park West Asset Management and Sterling Road with participation from new and existing investors, including DN Capital, Amplo, 1984 Ventures, FundersClub, Moving Capital, Rosecliff Ventures, Seraph Group, Unpopular Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund, and the founders of German intercity bus service FlixBus.
“The Kyte team has a wealth of experience, which has been reflected in their incredible revenue growth over the last few years. We’re excited to support them now and long into the future,” said Ash Rust, Managing Partner of Sterling Road in a statement.
This new funding follows a $9 million seed round in late 2020 bringing total capital raised to more than $40 million.
Other rental agencies such as Enterprise
“It lacks the technical foundations, customers demand. Customers are just incredibly spoiled in terms of quality of these experiences,” said Schoenack in an interview. “In order to deliver a perfect experience every time one needs to rethink the model and rebuild the infrastructure from the ground up and that’s what we set out to do.”
Almost everything about Kyte is different. Rather than a full range of vehicles, its fleet is what Schoenack describes as a “narrow focus” ranging from compact cars to full size cars to SUVs but “you won’t find a seven-seater minivan in our portfolio,” Schoenack said.
In keeping with its of-the-moment tech mindset, electric and hybrid vehicles are available along with those powered by internal combustion engines although Kyte is working on greatly increasing its EV offerings.
Another difference is Kyte doesn’t depend on airport business. It doesn’t serve any airports. Its customers for the most part have already caught a ride in an Uber
For longer use, subscriptions are available and the company is launching a program focused on Evs.
Just running another rental car business is not the real plan for Kyte. The longer range play is operating with teleoperated vehicles directed by remote control and ultimately autonomous vehicles.
“We believe in autonomous cars and autonomous fleets in that future,” said Kyte co-founder Nikolaus Volk in an interview. “What we think is in that future autonomous cars vehicles will be owned by some sort of fleet. It doesn’t make sense that you or I own some sort of autonomous car, right? Autonomous cars will essentially be owned and managed essentially by centralized, large fleets. We’re building that infrastructure and operating system to move vehicles from centralized fleets to the use cases where they’re needed.”
To help make that happen Kyte bolstered its leadership team with high-powered executives from the tech and mobility worlds including former engineering director from Uber ATG and Aurora, Nick Cobb and Chandra Morando, a former vice president at electric scooter company Bird.
“It signals we’re pretty serious about building the infrastructure in the future for teleoperations as well as autonomy,” said Volk.
Those hires mirror the varied, but related, backgrounds of Kyte’s three co-founders. Volk is an Uber alumnus, Schoenack was a fellow senior associate at McKinsey and Co. and Francesco Wiedemann was Product Manager Shared Mobility at BMW Group.
Kyte currently operates in the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and eight other U.S. cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Much of the fresh cash infusion will go into building Kyte’s technical platform, but Schoenack says the plan is to quickly grow the company.
“We’re going to take Kyte nationally,” said Schoenack. “We are going to spend it on growing the team quite substantially. We think it’s a good time to bring Kyte to more people.”
Ostensibly, so one day autonomous Kyte rentals can bring themselves to more people.