CityFlitz: Building a $1/day car rental service with Web 2.0

September 18, 2008


Recently, FreshBooks had the fortune to be part of a major shake up of the streets of Toronto. There’s a new car rental service in town, and it only costs $1 / day. If you’ve seen some MINI Coopers covered in Yahoo! purple, you’ve seen CityFlitz.

The CityFlitz purple Yahoo! car

CityFlitz is set to disrupt the incumbents, ZipCar and Autoshare in a big way, and FreshBooks is proud to be part of that story.

0 to 60 at Internet speed

CityFlitz needed to build their infrastructure in a hurry. They looked at legacy software options in the market and realized they’d be constrained by the practices of the very industry they were about to overturn. After their technology partner, Palomino System Innovations looked at existing car rental software, they realized the legacy software served the old industry too well, and it consequently did too much. As Markus Latzel, CEO of Palomino, explained to me,

It tried to do everything: billing, reporting, staff management, fleet management, tracking early returns. 80% of the features just didn’t apply to CityFlitz, and the remaining 20% couldn’t be customized for our scenario. They did try to help us, but it was too difficult to manage changes to their software.

Forced to chart their own course, the last thing they wanted to do was build everything from scratch. Instead, they built their business by snapping together the work of others. They solved their problem by combining a cherry-picked handful of highly focused Software-as-a-Service building blocks, and it they did quickly, cheaply, and kick ass.

We are proud to be part of their solution. CityFlitz relies on FreshBooks for billing and collections, in conjunction with

  • Yahoo! Maps for location tracking and booking,
  • PayPal for online payment services,
  • and Palomino’s own WebPal platform to manage web content, car inventory and customer profiles.

All these components snap together through their well-constructed APIs, and all the CityFlitz customers see is a seamless user experience.

There’s plenty of road ahead

What Palomino has done for CityFlitz is amazing. 20 years ago, it would have been incredibly difficult to create a new car rental service with only a small amount of capital. Pervasive wireless Internet means they don’t need a retail location to manage their fleet. They operate almost entirely through the Internet. Today, they have proved you just need some spare cars, a laptop, and a dream.

In the words of Markus,

This has been a fun project. We have proven that on-demand SaaS has now matured to a level where we can handle complex business processes by combining specialized, high-quality online services. The times of one-system-tries-to-do-it-all are over.

Update: Learn how to use FreshBooks to manage your own application’s billing.


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.