Auro Founder Alejandro Betancourt on the Future of the Ride Share Market
(Photo : auro.travel)

Alejandro Betancourt is the founder and largest shareholder of Spain's Auro Travel. He built the company from the ground up with the philosophy of smart and well-researched risk taking. Betancourt recently sat down to talk about Auro Travel and his role within the company. Here's a little of what he had to say.

When asked how and why he started Auro Travel, Betancourt responded that the company was formed because he saw an opportunity to compete with transportation companies like Uber and Cabify. In Spain, such companies need to have individual vehicle licenses to operate and there was a limited number of them available in each market. Auro Travel started acquiring these licenses before they were as highly sought after as they are now. Said Betancourt, "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." A division of Auro Travel - Arrow - was created to be the company's licensing arm and it provides licenses to companies such as Uber and Cabify that wish to operate in major Spanish markets. 

The Future of Auro Travel

Arrow and Auro Travel have a very strong market position in Madrid as well as in other cities in Spain. When asked where he sees the company growing in the future, Betancourt responded, "I see many ways we can grow. While the number of licenses is capped, we have around 2,000 of them, making us one of the biggest players in the area, mainly in Madrid. However, we are in the process of launching our own app, which will create opportunities for us to be an operator ourselves, not just providing licenses to other operators. I see us expanding beyond Spain and even challenging the big transportation players in Europe."

Betancourt elaborated on the app, saying, "We currently have a beta app. You can download it and you can try it, but we are not officially marketing it yet. We're not officially in the market per se. This is partly because of the pandemic and partly because we want to make sure we launch a product that is way better than our competition. We want to have an edge. We want to use our app to help us be better than everyone else." He continued about how the pandemic has affected these expansion plans, saying, "Right now, we are concentrated on how we are going to restart the company. We have more than 2,000 vehicles, all of which are parked because there is no demand for travel. Managing our resources in this challenging environment is our primary focus right now."

When asked Betancourt whether he thinks that being based in Madrid gives Auro Travel and Arrow a competitive advantage over internationally-focused companies like Uber and Cabify, Betancourt responded that he sees the situation more about the competition needing Auro, since they own the licenses the other companies need to be able to operate in Spain. "Either they work with us or we dominate the market. This is especially true in Madrid," explains Betancourt.

The Future of the Ride-Sharing Market

When asked whether he sees a future in the ride-sharing model, whether it will be a standard part of life in 10 years or so, whether he sees it maybe even replacing private ownership, Betancourt responded, "The world population is constantly growing. Regulation is changing all of the time. I think the growth of personal vehicle ownership has probably peaked. I think as people and governments become more conscious of reducing carbon emissions and their carbon footprints, there will be more and more interest in public transportation and ways to share rides. I believe that the ride-sharing model will continue to gain market share and that the big loser is going to be the personal car and the auto manufacturers."

Risk and Reward

Buying up the licenses for ride-sharing vehicles ahead of the demand was definitely a risk. However, Betancourt and his fellow investors saw the opportunity in this move. When asked how he encourages other people in his business to take calculated risks and what he does to foster a culture of innovation, Betancourt answered, "Well...the way I see it is 'Nothing risked; nothing gained.' You have to take risks in order to succeed, but you also need to do your due diligence. I don't advocate taking crazy risks. That's being foolish. When you take a risk, you need to be fully aware of the consequences and fully understand what you're going to do if it goes bad. That's being a good risk taker. You must be able to live with the result if the situation goes bad."

About Auro Travel

In addition to providing operating licenses to ride-sharing companies like Uber and Cabify, Auro Travel operates a private fleet of their own vehicles that they use to provide professional point-to-point private car service with a driver throughout Spain. The company, founded in 2017, employs around 100 people and operates the largest fleet of private vehicles in Spain.

In his work with Auro Travel, Alejandro Betancourt is directly involved in the company's strategy and direction, coordinates and oversees more than 3000 employees and licensees while supervising the key management selection process, and analyzing and recommending improvements to the company's strategic business plans. Betancourt is also very actively involved in the creation, testing and marketing of the new Auro Travel mobile app.

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