Idea by Yuniel, the COO of YoTeLlevo. Cartoon by Martín, the CEO.
Idea by Yuniel, the COO of YoTeLlevo. Cartoon by Martín, the CEO.
Everytime I talk about my startup with a person I have to explain many of my points of view. I have to do it because some of them don’t understand what value YoTeLlevo is really providing, or because they think it is not going to work, or else.
The fact is, we do things differently, but different can be good; this post is to explain just that.
Private drivers for tourism is certainly not a new business in Cuba. The island is flooded with private drivers for tourism. There’s even websites that list those drivers with their contact info and companies that let you make a private driver reservation in advance.
So you have the offline or face to face version of hiring a driver in Cuba once you’re in the island, and the online version, where you book a driver for when you arrive -for a transfer, tour or any ride.
Sure you can find a private driver once you arrive in the island. Many people do it, but I really don’t know how difficult it is, or how reliable. I think it’s better to hire one before you land in the island and make sure you arrange everything well.
You are lucky if you’ve been recommended a driver and given his contact info some time ahead; that would be wonderful! If a friend recommends you a driver that’s because they had an awesome service.
Otherwise you will have to try the online approaches.
What every website in the private driver hiring business have in common is that you don’t contact the drivers directly, but talk to a person that is the middleman and makes the reservation with one of their drivers for you. I’m not saying this is wrong. Actually, these businesses are very successful and have many happy customers!
What I’m saying is that I wanted to try something different this time and get myself out of the drivers’ way and let them be the ones who talk.
It wasn’t an arbitrary decision. It started like that because it just felt right that people arranged their travels with a driver directly, but it also considered a lot of other values this approach would provide for our customers.
I’m writting this post to mention some of those values.
First of, there is the appealing feature of contacting the person that is going to be your driver. It is not the same if I did all the arrangements and talkings with you, then called an available driver and made the reservation. This way you’d get a driver that shows up out of the blue, without having a grasp of your needs. Wouldn’t you like to have talked to this driver first? Having a person who already knows your name and have introduced to you pick you up at the airport is something nice -at least this will not happen :)
The magic can emerge when you discover that these drivers might happen to be interesting people, who have university degrees, or know all about fishing, or own a restaurant or have amazing ideas about traveling itself. Heck you can chat about anything with them prior to your arrival!
As you do that, you might as well discover that one thing our drivers can do for you is be your guide. I mean, not as in a professional tourism guide -though you might just stumble across with one- but as in they know Cuba very well and can show you around and answer many of your questions.
Hiring a private driver in Cuba sometimes is about evaluating options. Not all of the drivers charge the same. The prices might depend on their particular costs to do the trip -gas might cost differently to them- or the type and comfort of the car; or simply it’s the driver’s personal fare, just because.
So why not have options? Why not contact more than one person and see what is the best offer? That’s different to contacting the middleman, where you’d have to negotiate based on one option only.
In YoTeLlevo you contact up to three drivers.
At this point I’m going to spam you with some pictures of our drivers.
Ok, that’s not spam. That’s real pictures the drivers have sent me to create an avatar so you can see their faces as they exchange emails with you. Ain’t that great?!
Side note: I know, there is no picture of a female driver. That’s because we don’t have one yet. They are very hard to find :)… but we continue to search because it would be amazing to have a driver girl on board.
Now moving on.
Haven’t it happened to you that you hire a driver through a middleman and in the end the driver can’t do something you had previously arranged with the middleman, or even the prices are different? When you work with independent drivers sometimes you don’t know all the facts and you have to assume some things that might not be real. We plan to avoid that kind of situations and rule surprises out. I mean, talking to the driver is the closer thing to reality, right?
Another thing is better personalization. Since our drivers don’t have to manage all of the requests (as opposed to having a middleman), this gives them more time to focus better on what you want and give you first hand facts and info on what you can or can’t do with them.
You can negotiate fares more quietly and ahead of time, and discuss the driver’s answers with your couple, family or travel partner before deciding and replying back. This will feel better than discussing the prices real time and in a hurry while being approached by several drivers on the streets, as normally happens if you try to hire one the moment you arrive.
Would you rather hire a stranger in the streets in a hurry, or someone you had time to engage with?
One more thing I want to add is that you can find an English speaker driver through YoTeLlevo. We automatically match your request with English speaker drivers if you create it in the English version of the site -just switch languages at the top of the page.
In the streets it could happen that you’re in such a hurry that you have to pick one of the drivers even if he doesn’t speak good English.
That is all I can think of for now. I think it all reduces to the fact that if you meet the driver first, when you get to do the trip you’ll be able to continue the conversation instead of starting one. That sounds close to having a friend in Cuba already.
And yes, I know it’s not much, because after all…
What I have written in this post has to do with something I will call soft values (just occured to me): values that exist but are irrelevant if other stronger values are not present.
What does that mean?
That means that what you really want and need from our service is professionalism, punctuality, safety and guarrantee. Those are strong values. Without these you will certainly not be happy. A friendly driver that can speak your language is just a plus.
But I can tell you, we are working to build the stronger values. We are still the middleman, only that less invasive. We can’t claim to have the stronger values yet because we are building the culture with our drivers right now, but that doesn’t mean we lack them.
Our drivers have been carefully chosen and some have been in business for a long time. Will they deliver a great experience? Just hire one and see for yourself.
Just recently I visited Havana and walked around Vedado. I saw so many tourists enjoying themselves taking a tour around the city in vintage cars, that I decided to spend some minutes photo shooting those moments; some minutes became more than one hour of capturing people doing such an amazing tour.
I took the pictures in a few locations in Vedado but these cars are rolling all around Havana carrying visitors. Trust me, there is no better way to get an initial grasp of Havana than taking this kind of tour: you land in the airport, get transfered to your hotel or casa, go out inmediately and find a vintage car to hire… probably one like these:
How about that? Would you dare to feel an old engine running under your seat as you are welcome in Havana? Can you picture yourself hiring the blue, the pink, the purple or the orange?