I, like many before me, couldn’t help but pull out my smartphone the first time I saw a gold supercar. There is something so incredibly indulgent and unapologetic about it; yes, I can afford a high-performance luxury sports car – and make it even more luxurious.
The idea is no more than a dream for most of us, yet a dream new Uber rival miwhip is looking to make a normality for its users. The ride-sharing app launched with an Austin Powers villain-worthy Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari 488, Rolls Royce Ghost II, Mercedes G Wagon and McLaren 720s today to the delight of luxe-loving Londoners.
For the critical, it looks like a PR stunt running on fumes. But as I’ve found out, the business is far more impressive than its ostentatious Lambo.
The app started as a sanguine project between five Londoners who grew up watching how hard their late father – a mini-cab driver – worked to juggle work and family life.
Co-founder Amerah Ahmed, who returned to London after 15 years defying gender norms in the Middle East (where she ended up on seven prestigious boards), said: “The story really starts long before our father died eight years ago. We always had these strong emotional memories of our father and helping him count what money he made in the day after he picked us up from school.
“It’s the reason we take 10% less commission than our competitors and offer daily cash outs. We knew our father had a good day based on the number of grocery bags he’d have sometimes. We know how hard fathers like ours work and we wanted to reward it. It is a huge part of our vision.
“We also knew we couldn’t do it by being the same as everyone else. We wanted to challenge the status quo. To be disruptive. To give people the chance to pick up their groceries in a Ferrari while we maintain these values.
“It was a love letter to our dad and we wanted to paint the town red. We just ended up doing it in gold,” she laughed.
As it turns out, miwhip have made nearly all that glitters in their business gold; for single passenger bookings that both pick up and drop off in TFL Zone 1, passengers can hop in a gold liveried smart car – or ‘mione’ – for a flat rate of only £5.
Chris Smith, CFO, said: “What other company will take you from Kensington to Whitechapel for a fiver?
“It’s very important to us to offer value for everyone involved. So many central London journeys are taken by single passengers, it just didn’t make sense to only offer one option.
“It is the same with our drivers. While our prices are the consistent with all other ride hailing apps, we have a lottery which sends our supercars out at random at no extra cost.
“And we have two options for drivers – the ability to be self-employed or employed by us, as all the supercar drivers are. It means we have the ability to offer specially trained professionals who can treat a ride like a museum experience, should they end up in a McLaren.”
Nohman Ahmed, another of the sibling co-founders, continued: “We didn’t want to be just another profitable mini cab business alone.
“With one of our other brands, [sneaker care brand] Crep Potect, we took a premium mindset but did so because we were the consumer and it was what we wanted from a brand. It is no different here.
“Traveling doesn’t need to be boring. It can involve supercars. It can become one of the best things to do in London. We’re so proud of these iconic things like the black cab and telephone box – the heritage. Rather than conforming to the norm, why don’t we influence?”
And influence, they have. The app – which is available on Android and will be available on iOS at midnight – has already been downloaded thousands of times prior to its official service launch in six weeks.
Tourists and city slickers alike will also benefit from a social ‘nearby’ feature in the app which uses a passenger’s locations to suggest places to go out, secret foodie tip-offs, and general recommendations on things to do in London – updated daily.
Not to be ‘extra’, but I think miwhip might just make the Rolls Royce Ghost II my new heavy shopping transport mode of choice.