Silvercar Wants to Take the Suckiness out of Car Rental

silvercar_logoEver rented a car from the airport and waited forever in a long line only to get the cheap leftovers? Yeah, we’ve all been there and said some things we shouldn’t have to the poor attendant at the car rental counter.

After repeatedly experiencing this same frustration, Todd Belveal and Bill Diffenderffer were inspired to create a hassle-free, customer-centric alternative. Together, with a small group of industry and technology experts, they launched Silvercar in March 2012 and never looked back. Disruption is the name of the game, and Silvercar is leading innovation in the airport car rental industry, harnessing technology to simplify the process and abolish the “take-what’s-left” notion for good.

A4 Awesomeness

From reservation to return, Silvercar has re-imagined the airport car rental process to ensure the best customer experience. Take their fleet of premium cars, for instance, made up of only one make and model – a silver Audi A4. This is very smart because it benefits both the company and customers, simplifying the process of stocking inventory and preventing the variations typically found in rental pricing and features.

Not completely won over yet? Don’t worry, you will be. To rent a Silvercar, all you have to do is download their app (available for iPhone and Android devices), create a reservation, update your profile and walk to your car. Think about it, you could do the first three tasks while sitting in the airplane on the tarmac, waiting for the disembark announcement. There’s no counter or lines so, once you’ve retrieved your baggage, just walk out the door and drive off in style. Best of all, everything is wireless and paperless because your smartphone does all of the legwork – from unlocking and assessing your Silvercar to receiving your electronic receipt.

And since Silvercar is all about the customer, they made sure not to skimp on complementary features. When you rent a Silvercar, you can expect the following luxuries to come standard:

  • Navigation system

  • SiriusXM satellite radio

  • Wi-fi hotspot

  • Bluetooth pairing

  • Audi quattro all-wheel drive

  • Leather seats

  • Roadside safety assistance

  • Toll tracking – Silvercar remotely searches for toll fees associated with your Audi A4 and bills them to your account.

Gone are the days of having to scramble to fill up your rental’s tank before you drop it off or pay double to have the rental company take care of fueling. As soon as your Silvercar enters the return area, they use fuel sensors to calculate the exact amount of gas in your tank. The company only charges customers for the fuel used during the rental period. Not only that, but they calculate their fuel charge at the local premium fuel rate, plus a flat $5 fill-up fee.

silvercar_foundersBorn in Texas

Based in Austin, Texas and under CEO Luke Schneider’s leadership, Silvercar has four Texas airport locations at Austin Bergstrom International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Dallas Love Field and, its newest addition, William P. Hobby in Houston. After selling out of their inventory during SXSW, the company decided to keep a large Texas presence; however, they are expecting to be in seven different markets by the end of 2013. So far, no details have been released regarding what those seven markets are, but, I would love to see them expand to SFO or LAX (I’m itching to try Silvercar out during my business trips).


The privately held startup has grown immensely thanks to funding from some of the world’s most influential investors, led by Austin Ventures. As of July 2013, the startup has amassed $16.5M in total funding, which will help fund the company’s rapid expansion during the remainder of the year.

Silvercar has great potential. Although, those looking for a larger vehicle might not be willing to sacrifice space for simplicity and unbeatable features, so it’s definitely a program tailored for a specific type of traveler. However, as soon as the company expands outside of Texas and more people learn of its streamlined benefits, it will only be a matter of time before travelers come to expect it at every airport – hell, I’m ready for it to be at every airport! Stay tuned and make sure to follow Silvercar on Twitter @silvercar to receive updates on location announcements and promotional codes for discounted rentals.

Soup Dumpling Awesomeness

Like most business travelers I have my “go-to” places in the cities that I regularly visit. When I visit New York, Joe’s Shanghai is up at the top of the list. I originally discovered Joe’s back in 2003, a friend took me to the Chinatown location (9 Pell Street) and I instantly fell in love.

Joe’s isn’t fancy by any stretch of the imagination. The Chinatown location is old, cramped and sports dusty neon lights straight out of the 80s. When you are shown to your table, you may be surprised that you will be sharing it with a complete group of strangers and sitting (very) closely to people that aren’t part of your party. Chances are they will already be half way through their meal, speaking Chinese to each other as they eat things you will be afraid to order.


I like to experiment, but I am not down with fish heads. The reason I go to Joe’s can be summed up in two words – soup dumplings. You may think you have had something like them before, but I promise you have never had soup dumplings until you have had them at Joe’s. There is always a line out the door and these little pouches of soupy happiness are why. Order the pork dumplings and your belly will smile.

Soup DumplingsWhile the reason to go is the dumplings, they do offer a full list of options on the menu. Other favorites of mine include Joe’s Shanghai Noodles, Crispy Beef and Shrimp Grand Marnier (not on the menu). If you head to the Chinatown location know that it can feel a little sketchy at night if you aren’t comfortable in big cities. They don’t accept credit cards so make sure you have some cash.

If you are looking for a slightly more upscale experience you can checkout the Joe’s on 56th street in Midtown. They offer soup dumplings, though they are more expensive and always feel a bit smaller in size to me. You get 8 dumplings for $6.95 in Chinatown – you get 6 dumplings for $8.95 in Midtown. The upside to Midtown is you get your own table, there is rarely a line and they accept credit cards. Not quite the authentic experience, but a close second if you can’t make it down to Chinatown.

Have another Chinese restaurant you love in New York? Let me know and I will check it out on my next visit.

Tony Hsieh’s Las Vegas Downtown Project

A few months ago Tony Hsieh set up an opportunity for me to take a tour of the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. This is a massively ambitious effort dedicated to transforming downtown Las Vegas into “the most community-focused large city in the world”. I walked away from the experience excited about… and a bit jealous of… the future of downtown Las Vegas. In fact, this tour is what inspired me to create Trucks and Tech and take a more active role in the development of Orlando’s tech community.

tony_hsieh_downtown_projectTony and his team are true visionaries. They are empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs to rethink and reinvent the way they work and play. They have already created 454 new jobs and the project is still in its nascency. I followed up with Kim Schaefer of the Downtown team to get the 2 minute lowdown for my readers.

What was the inspiration behind the downtown project?

When Zappos announced their move to their new headquarters, Tony and several other Zappos team members decided to make the move Downtown–they had actually been hanging out down here for quite some time. But they had also been talking a lot about what their new campus would be like. They decided that rather than creating a really cool, but insular campus that had all of the amenities employees would ever need, it would be interesting to turn that idea inside out. Downtown Project was born from that idea. How could the entirety of Downtown be helped by the new influx of people and activity.

What makes Vegas so special?

Las Vegas was for a long time the fastest growing city in the country. Because that growth happened in a very condensed period of time, there was a resulting sprawl that occurred. That sprawl can lead to a disconnect between people in a community. The area we are helping to revitalize was once the vibrant core of our city, a place where families came to shop, dine, and meet with friends. It’s our hope that the neighborhood can return to that vibrancy and once again be the heart of the city for the people who live here–not just Downtown residents, but all residents of our city.

You have raised $350M so far, where did it all come from?

The $350 million is a private investment from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

What startups are part of the program?

Tech startups are important to us because we believe you change the world with a laptop. As opposed to a brick and mortar operation, in which we are also investing, tech startups can rapidly scale, creating jobs and helping to further diversify the Las Vegas economy.

(When I was there they setup a meeting with the founders of Romotive)

Why is coworking so important to the downtown project?

Coworking is a great way to accelerate learning and innovation. It allows technologists and entrepreneurs opportunities for serendipitous interactions, which we call collisions, to interact in a casual way where they can learn from one another, collaborate with one another, and support one another as they grow their businesses. We’ve invested in a coworking space called Work In Progress that also offers its members support in the form of classes, talks, office hours with experts, and mentorship to help them scale.

If you are ever in Las Vegas and have some time to broaden your mind I encourage you to reach out and try to schedule a tour with the Downtown team. This experience beats any show you can see on the Las Vegas strip! I promise you will walk away energized and driven to become more involved in your local community.

The ROI of Being Awesome

On Thursday morning I woke up, cracked open my laptop and checked in for my 85th flight on Delta this year. This was no ordinary flight. This flight would put me over 125,000 miles on Delta in 2011 (the earth’s circumference is 24,901 miles) and into the elite Diamond Medallion frequent flyer program.

Hitting Diamond is bitter sweet in many ways. Sure, I should get upgraded on just about every flight I take next year, but it also means that I have spent a lot of time away from my family this year and wayyyyy too much time in a confined space. Perhaps I was slap happy from all the travel… but I decided to poke Delta on Twitter about my “Up in the Air” moment.

To be honest I didn’t expect anything from them. Delta is a great airline, but I wouldn’t exactly call them playful or over the top. My impression has always been that they are very corporate, buttoned up and professional. Their customer service is strong, but their brand personality has always felt bland compared to that of Jetblue or Southwest.

Showing the Love

When I walked up to the gate there seemed to be an awful lot of Delta employees crowded around the desk. The gate attendant came on the loud speaker and announced, “Ladies and gentleman I have a very special announcement. I would like to congratulate Mr. Edward Murphy for making Diamond Medallion status. Mr. Murphy we would like to present you with a token of our appreciation.” Whaaaaaa?!?!

I walked up to the desk and was greeted by a team of Delta employees. They presented me with a framed certificate and a special Delta bag. We took pictures and all of the employees shook my hand. The entire gate area was clapping and shouting. They then provided me with a private escort onto the plane.

Once on the plane (in first class) the passengers were high-fiving me as they passed by. Each flight attendant came by to personally thank me for my business. The pilot came on the PA and congratulated me as well. I was floored. I felt like a rockstar… I was tweeting and texting my friends like crazy.

When I landed I noticed that I had a voicemail from a number I didn’t recognize. I played the message and my jaw dropped. A Delta VP called me while I was in the air apologizing that he couldn’t be at the gate, thanking me for my business and giving me his personal phone number if I should ever need him. Freakin’ awesome.

The ROI of Being Awesome

The total hard cost of everything that Delta did to celebrate my special flight was probably about $50 (for the certificate, frame and bag). All the employees were already at work; so was the person manning their Twitter account. I figure I spend about $30,000 a year on flights and I am now a customer for life. Not a bad return on investment for a little extra effort. Not only did they win me over for life, but my tweets reached my 27k followers and I have a feeling at least some of them will be making a switch soon.

Employees Love to Delight

You could tell from the Delta employees that this is not something that Delta does every day… but they should. The employees were genuinely happy for me and excited to be celebrating the occasion with me. Not only was I thrilled with the experience, they were to. They were proud to be associated with a company that would do something so cool for a customer. Empowering employees to take care of customers truly delights both parties.

What Can Your Company Do?

What Delta did for me didn’t cost a lot of money. It didn’t require months of planning (this all went down in a matter of hours). What it did require was listening to their customers and moving quickly to show they care.

The Trick to Flying First Class

In October 2010 I did a post called General Boarding. In that post I explained what I do to save money when I travel and that I never ride first class. Oh how things have changed. As soon as I did that post I received numerous emails from other frequent fliers showing me different ways to “level up” on various carriers. This year I have been flying first class about 90% of the time, earning miles faster and actually saving money for IZEA in the process. While I still look for the lowest fares my carrier of choice is now Delta and I have gone from zero to Platinum status since October. I am going to share my dirty little travel secret with you. I have no affiliation with Delta or AMEX other than a being a loyal customer.

Medallion Qualification Segments

The key to leveling up on Delta is Medallion Qualification Segments (MQMs). You can earn traditional “Miles” in thousands of way, but MQMs are a different story. You can’t earn them from buying flowers, renting a car or eating out. You can’t buy them either. For the most part you have to travel the actual miles to earn MQMs. However, there are periodic promotions and other methods that allow you to rack up MQMs in a big way.

In November I scored 25,000 MQMs for transferring 50,000 AMEX rewards points to my Delta account. That is the difference between Silver and Gold Status. This promotion is no longer active, but I hope they bring it back in 2011. This got me way closer to my Platinum goal, but what put me over the edge was the American Express Delta Reserve Credit Card.

Earn MQMs with Delta Reserve Credit CardAMEX Delta Reserve Card

I have been an American Express customer since 1999. They are my credit card of choice for business and personal use. I love their service and was delighted when I found out that they had a special high end credit card for Delta. With this card you earn 10,000 MQMs with your first purchase and can earn an additional 30,000 MQMs if you spend $60,000 or more per year on your card – which is doable if you are using it for business expenses. In addition to the MQMs you also get some great benefits:

  • Check your first bag free (for up to nine people)
  • Access the Delta Sky Club (free booze, Internet and comfortable seats)
  • You can gift MQMs to other people
  • Annual companion certificate for a free ticket
  • Pay with miles lets you buy any ticket with miles without blackouts
  • 24 Hour Concierge

At $450 the card is not cheap and the APR of 14.5% isn’t great, but if you are a frequent flyer that pays your bills every month (and has excellent credit) this is right up your alley. I have only had the card for a month and it has already paid for itself in baggage fees alone.

Order the Meat Hammer

Union, Las Vegas

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Blog World Expo in Las Vegas with the IZEA crew. We had an incredible time at the event, but one of the highlights of my three days was dinner at Union, located in the Aria hotel. I was invited to be a guest of The Light Group by my friend Manya for a private VIP dinner with some great people including Jason Keith, Chris Heuer, Kristie Wells, Justin Levy, Stefanie Michaels and Scott Stratten. The company and conversation was great (and got even better as the night went on), but the food was ridiculous.

Manya started our meal with mini kobe beef burgers, multiple orders of surf and turf and an assortment of other little appetizers. Everything was going well, then we moved on to the main event and I made a critical mistake. When I asked the waiter what to order he suggested the tomahawk rib eye steak, but after trying the kobe mini burgers I made the decision to ignore him and order the American kobe flat iron steak. That was stupid.

When the first tomahawk rib eye steak came out it was a spectacle. Not only did it smell amazing it looked like a weapon you could carry into a medieval battle. Our table quickly dubbed it the meat hammer. It was beautiful in every way and tasted fantastic. My kobe steak was good, but the meat hammer put it to shame. I was definitely out-ordered, and if Scott and I were forced to take arms I am afraid he would have had a superior weapon.

Tongue Tip

  1. Always go with the waiter’s advice, especially at a nice restaurant.
  2. If you can secure the private dining area at Union (seats 20) go for it. It is incredibly cool.

iPad GPS

Motion X GPSI do a good amount of traveling for my job, often to cities that require me to rent a car. In the past I have packed a Garmin portable GPS in my bag to avoid the daily fee charged by the rental companies. While the GPS itself wasn’t all that big or heavy it was another thing I had to pack, and made my computer bag even bulkier to lug around the airport.

When I purchased my iPad (aff link) I decided to see if there was an alternative. I did a search through the iTunes store and found a wide variety of GPS apps, some with expensive one time fees, others with monthly or yearly fees.

After some consideration I went with Motion X GPS Drive (yes, I am an iTunes affiliate as well) and I think made the right decision.

How I Use it

I place the iPad somewhere in the center console area. At first I was taping it to the dash to simulate the positioning of a built-in GPS unit, but found the GPS works just fine when positioned lower. It also looks less ghetto when you don’t use tape : ) The screen is big enough that you can see it when placed at a lower angle, and the voice navigation keeps you on track when you aren’t looking at the screen.

What I Like

The app itself is cheap, only $2.99 for purchase (the iPhone version is on sale right now for $.99). If you want to activate voice navigated turn-by-turn it is only $24.99 for the whole year. Compare that to a $49.99 one time purchase for the TomTom App or $69.99 each year for the AT&T app.

I like that I can get the same app for my iPhone and the iPad and that the interface is consistent. The UI is clean, easy to use and reasonably cool. I have found the directions to be spot on and the software is always able to find the location I am searching for (Internet permitting).

What I Don’t Like

ipad_gps2Apparently there is no built in map data. Every time you want to put in a location you need to have Internet access, which means it won’t work so well on the road for wifi-only iPad owners. Even though I have the iPad 3G I find this to be an issue at times because ATT cell service is so unreliable in big cities. Note that once you put in your destination you don’t seem to need Internet connectivity again while you are in route.

I wish that the software told you the name of the street you need to turn on, instead of a generic “turn in 500 feet”. It would also be nice if the recent and saved locations synced between my iPhone app and iPad app, since they are both authorized by the same account.

You Should Know

If you purchase the iPad app and iPhone app along with voice navigation you can only use voice navigation on one device at a time. This isn’t really a problem for me, but I could see it being an issue if you are sharing these devices.


I give Motion X GPS Drive 4/5 tongues. It is cheap to try (they give you a 30 day demo of the voice navigation for free) and provides 90% of the features I really need and care about. I just wish AT&T coverage was better.

Real Life Avatar

bioladyIn March Tara I went to Puerto Rico for a mini vacation. The trip was fantastic. We spent some time in Old San Juan, drank in the pool and discovered mofongo (one of my new favorite foods….and words). While I enjoyed the entire trip I have to say our visit to the “Bio Bay” in Las Croabas, Farjardo was by far the best part.


We kayaked for 45 minutes in complete darkness to reach a bioluminescent lagoon unlike anything I had ever seen. The lagoon was filled with Pyrodinium Bahamense, a microscopic plankton capable of producing natural light at the touch of your hand! It was like Avatar… but this wasn’t a movie. If you ever make it down to Peurto Rico I would recommend you check it out.

Note that you can’t actually get in the water. You can only wave your hands around in it.

Tripit is My New BFF

Tara told me about Tripit a long time ago. It sounded interesting but I have been using Orbitz to book and manage my travel for so long that I never really checked it out – until now. I don’t know why I waited this long…Tripit is easy, awesome and I can still use Orbitz or any other site.

Here is how it works:

1. Book your travel on any website.

2. Forward your confirmation email from that website to Tripit.

3. Let Tripit consolidate all your trip information in an intelligent way.

This tool is a godsend for people that travel a lot and need to share their travel schedule with friends and co-workers. I often book my airfare and hotel on different sites, I love that Tripit merges the information together. I upgraded my account to monitor my flights, enhance the sharing features and centralize the management of my frequent flyer/hotel points.

I am a bone head. I should have been using this for months.


Ted’s Airport Security Guide

I have spent the past few weeks traveling the country non-stop. That means hours of my life wasted in the airport, many of those sitting in the security screening line on the way to my gate. tsa-500Despite all the videos, signs and screaming TSA employees there is apparently still some confusion about procedures at the security check point. For those of you who have difficulty I have compiled my own guide to getting through security quickly and not annoying your fellow passengers.

The Expert Lane

In most of the major airports there are special expert lanes designated for people that travel regularly. These lanes are designed for people that fly more than twice a month and are “experts” in TSA security procedures. If you don’t fly regularly or are traveling with children you should get in another lane with the proper designation.

Common Questions

Q : “This is my first time flying. Am I an expert?”

A : “No. Expert means you fly all the time.”

Q : “I am an expert but my 2 year old, 5 year old, 7 year old, wife, grandma (in a wheelchair) and dog are not. Should I get into the expert lane anyway?”

A : “No. While you are an expert you are traveling with your family. You should get in the family lane.”

Take off your shoes

Shoes are the things you wear on your feet to protect them and provide comfort. Shoes include sneakers, flip-flops, boots, sandals, pumps, clogs and variety of other styles. “Take off” refers to the act of removing your shoes from your feet.

Common Questions

Q : “I am a woman. Do I have to take my shoes off too?”

A : “Yes. Men and women are treated equally by TSA.”

Q : “I am wearing boots which makes it hard to take off my shoes. Do I still need to take them off?”

A : “Yes. Next time wear shoes that are easier to take off.”

Q : “Is unlacing my shoes the same as taking them off?”

A : “No. Unlacing them is just unlacing them.”

Q : “Are you sure flip flops are considered shoes?”

A : “Yes.”

Remove all metal from your body

Metal is a chemical element that is used in a variety of everyday objects. Common metals include silver, steel, iron, nickel, gold and zinc. Metal is typically hard and shiny. You probably have metal in your belt buckle, glasses, piercings and umbrella. You should remove all the metal you have on your body and place it in a bin to go through the X-Ray machine.

Common Questions

Q : “The change in my pocket is hard and shiny. Is it made of metal?”

A : “Yes. Change is metal and should be removed from your pocket.”

Q : “My necklace is made of metal. Is that still considered metal?”

A : “Yes.”

Discard Sharp Objects

Your are prohibited from carrying any sharp objects on to a plane. Sharp objects include box cutters, ice axes, meat cleavers, razor blades, sabers and swords. Sharp objects must be discarded (thrown away or mailed back home) in order to pass through security.

Common Questions

Q : “Can I bring my pocket knife on the plane.”

A : “No. A pocket knife is technically a knife.”

Q : “If they X-Ray my sword can I bring it on board.”

A : “No. It is still a sword.”

Q : “Is a spear gun considered a sharp object?”

A : “Yes. It is a spear… and a gun (see below).”

Discard Weapons and Self Defense Items

1091560Much like sharp objects, you are prohibited from carrying on weapons along with  martial arts and self defense items. These include guns, grenades, billy clubs, black jacks, brass knuckles, kubatons, mace, nunchakus, stun guns and throwing stars. If it could kill someone it is best to leave it at home.

Common Questions

Q : “I just bought these nunchakus, do I still have to throw them away?”

A : “Yes. It doesn’t matter how old they are.”

Q : “My gun is in a locked case. Can I bring it on board?”

A : “No. Cases can be opened.”

Q : “I am pretty sure that this grenade doesn’t have any explosives inside. Is that O.K.?”

A : “No.”

I hope that you have found this guide helpful. For more information please visit the TSA website. The frequent travelers of the world would appreciate it.