Thirty years ago, Turo CEO Andre Haddad was in a parking garage under the family’s apartment block in Beirut, listening for the bombs.
It was 1989, the last of the 15-year-old Lebanese civil war, and the two dozen families living in Haddad’s eight-story building often spent their nights in the relative safety of the underground garage. Even though it was only big enough for six cars at most, it had become a shelter, strewn with mattresses and lamps and personal items brought down from the apartments above.
“You build up a kind of war wisdom over time: You do not want to be on the top floors of your building,”
His family lived like this for more than a year, until the night the shells found their apartment.
Haddad tells his story in downtown San Francisco in the offices of his car-sharing app Turo, which allows people to rent (often very fancy) cars a day. Do you want to drive a Lamborghini? Or take a BMW convertible from Vegas to the Bay Area? Everything. Today, Turo has more than 14 million members and 450,000 registered vehicles. Haddad’s road to get here crossed many borders, but it started that night in the garage.
After the bomb hit, things moved quickly. Haddad’s family decided to leave Lebanon and live with relatives in Cyprus, but Haddad took a different path. Before the explosion, he had talked to a cousin in Paris, someone who had asked him a question he had never considered. “He said, ‘This is your senior year in high school, what’s your plans? What do you want to do?'” Haddad said. “I thought, ‘wow, nobody’s asked me these questions.’ much of a vision for the future. It is a mechanism for self-defense. ”
The day after the shell landed on his balcony, Haddad called that cousin, and before long he had a ticket to Paris and a plan to enter the business school. Seventeen years old and on his own, Haddad also found his way into the French music scene and became a DJ – he claims to have seen Daft Punk before helmets – but there was a problem: his music had all been wiped out.
“I was looking for ways to rebuild my collection,” he says, “and I discovered eBay.”
The selection was incredible, but the more he bought, the more he wanted to sell – and shipping costs rose quickly. To solve both problems – and by using the rapidly evolving business instincts – he founded iBazar, which was launched as a way to switch music and became one of Europe’s largest online marketplaces. iBazar grew large enough that it was eventually bought by eBay for more than $ 100 million. Just like that, everything had changed.
Haddad spent the next decade on tech jobs and taking positions at eBay and serves as CEO of Shopping.com. In 2011, down after workload, he was planning to take a Sabbath day when a friend approached him about an idea of car sharing that was called Turo. “I really had to appreciate the creativity, the toughness, the hunger,” he says. In addition, he was well acquainted with the notion of using the Internet to connect real people. “Turo was built on trust, which made me feel very comfortable with it,” he says.
It is an incredible highlight to see the power of humanity.
Today, Turo has more than 14 million members. “There are users who are barely 18, and some in their 80s,” he says. The app offers everything from standard sedans to exotic high-end imports, often for less than the price of a traditional rental.
In addition, after some initial hesitation, Haddad has become more active on immigration issues. “To begin with, I did not want any public involvement with this type of noble cause to be misinterpreted as personal publicity – or worse, corporate publicity,” he says. Plus, he adds, it would not have been easy to turn the page.
Today he is becoming more and more outspoken, both aloud and in writing. He has spent many years on the board of Immigration Equality, an organization designed to bring equality to LGBTQ + immigrants. And he has signed amicus letters and open letters to protect immigrants. “It’s right to do,” he says. “It helps economic development in the United States. But the fact is that people are here because they chose to come here. It’s a very, very difficult thing to do. If you are willing to do that, it means there are some exceptional traits. “
Originally published in the App Store.