France’s Virtuo raises $96m to digitalise car rentals

20 May 2021

Thibault Chassagne and Karim Kaddoura. Image: Virtuo

The start-up will be investing in new markets in Europe and accelerating the electrification of its rental car fleet.

French car rental platform Virtuo has raised $96m in a mix of equity and loan funding as it prepares to take on more markets.

Virtuo’s on-demand car rental platform, which is targeted at cities, is trying to pull the car rental industry away from the traditional rental desk and paperwork.

A key tenet of Virtuo’s offering is the shift to a digital, paperless experience where cars can be booked and collected with greater ease.

AXA Venture Partners has a led $60m Series C round with other investors including Bpifrance, Balderton Capital, Iris Capital and Raise Ventures. Meanwhile Natixis and members of the Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Épargne Group have provided asset-based loan financing to the tune of $36m.

Co-founders Karim Kaddoura and Thibault Chassagne said on-demand car rental can support a “new social contract between city dwellers and the car”, where a balance is met between the convenience of using a car and reducing environmental impact. The start-up is planning to increase the number of electric cars in its fleets.

“Our ambition for Virtuo and our car on-demand service is to reinvent our relationship with cars. To provide all the benefits that cars can offer while using technology to remove the physical burden,” the co-founders added in a statement.

“We believe you should be able to access a car the same way you stream music or films: the car should appear on demand when you need it, but disappear from sight when you don’t.”

With the new funding in tow, the French company plans to expand its geographical reach in its mission to reduce dependency on car ownership.

It is currently operating in France, Spain and the UK, with plans to enter Italy this month and Germany to follow next year. It plans to be in 10 markets by 2025.

In France, Virtuo has inked a deal with Hyundai to provide its electric cars under a revenue-sharing business model. Virtuo said it aims to have a 100pc electric fleet by 2030.

Caroline Lebel of Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, which backed the round, said Virtuo offers “a true alternative to owning private cars for city dwellers”.

“Born in the digital era, Virtuo’s 100pc digital experience is backed by powerful technology and artificial intelligence to optimise its operations. We are convinced that the mobility of tomorrow must be built with strong technology at its core, addressing new behaviours and with the freedom of choice of a multimodal offer.”

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin