Yihang Duan is an exemplary millennial entrepreneur. Born in China and residing in the United States, Yihang has found experience wherever he explored and used this wisdom to create new business ventures. Already a veteran of several industries, his resume includes roles as the Chairman of Beijing Zhongyi Aviation and the Zhongtian Longyuan International Auction company. This is in addition to founding a diverse field of companies that include Zhongda Kangcheng Financial, Beijing-based Carat Star Jewelry, and Zhongrong Huitong Asset Management in Liaoning.
In 2017, he entered the online travel industry with his launch of Prince Travel, a technology driven online car rental platform with a foothold in 21 major Chinese cities. By the end of December 2019, Prince Travel had 3.8M members, a fleet of nearly 6,000 vehicles, and accumulated revenue of nearly RMB 360M (over USD 50M).
Mr. Duan continues his growth as a global business pioneer. After success in the Chinese market, he led core members of the Prince Travel team to form World Go in New York, establishing their headquarters on the city’s iconic Wall Street. Taking lessons from Prince Travel’s model, his new company embarks on a bold journey to build an all-in-one platform that provides luxury car rental, tourist group vehicle rentals, airport pickup and drop-off, car-on-demand services, and even secondhand car trading.
In partnership with travel agencies, World Go reached a new milestone in March 2020 as business expanded across the United States, as well as the UAE, and Japan.
In April, Yihong Duan sat with Seattle Chinese Radio for the following interview.
> What was the motivation behind naming the company ‘World Go’ and putting headquarters on Wall Street?
YD: With the name World Go, we saw it as the most straightforward way to share our message. We hope that our users, from all around the world to choose our service whenever they need to go somewhere, anywhere, without hesitation. Likewise, the physical setting is to put us in line with our goals. We aim to be listed on NASDAQ within three years. Wall Street, as a world financial center, holds an unmatchable place within the international business world.
> Why choose the international market? Can you tell us about your current global presence and plans for developing overseas?
It’s the simple idea of getting a bigger piece of a bigger cake. The global market is 5-6 times larger than the Chinese market. It creates enormous potential for us as well as encouraging more development and innovation.
Currently, we are providing our services in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the United States, and Japan. Due to logistics, laws, and regulations, expanding globally is certainly more ambitious for an early-stage business than trying to smooth out domestic growth. However, our goals are relatively conservative and based on a wealth of experience within the different industries we are merging here. We are starting with services in 10 countries but within the next 5 years, we target operating a fleet of over 400,000 vehicles in major cities across at least 180 countries. Starting from car rental services, we will later introduce airport pick-up and drop-off and car-on-demand service. From there World Go will incorporate free return car services and off-site exchange services in every one of those countries.
> Why operate within the travel industry and where do you see that industry heading into the next ten years?
When we think of daily needs, it is easy to recognize food, clothing, shelter, but more and more we realize that transportation has become a basic need. At World Go, we approach travel itself as an indispensable need. And just as basic needs result in different tastes and varied styles, we find that in travel. Therefore, technology becomes a method for us to satisfy our travelers and users.
Within the travel industry, there are many ways to get from one place to another and with the development of internet technology, travelers are looking for services to make things more readily available and easy to manage. I believe in a unifying “big data travel platform” to put it that way. I envision a means to bring the diversity of travel methods to one place on behalf of the user. A “big data travel platform” that understands the user better and focuses on service to streamline the process and cater to their preferences.
> Could you tell us more about Word Go’s focus on rentals and leases as well as tourism as a whole?
We begin to answer that question by first understanding the user’s perspective and how we grow the platform from there. We can speak at length about different car brands and what a vehicle means to different people, but specific to the modern traveler, the essence of the car is a means of transportation. With the progress and development of society, car ownership in general, and therefore the car itself, is no longer a representation of social status or societal right of passage. We are at a point where people are opting to use a car rather than to own one. A commuter car for a businessperson, a family vehicle for a parent, and even a dream car for a young person does not necessarily have to be purchased. Car rentals solve these needs as the desires shift, even as the same traveler may shift from one vehicle for work trips to a different vehicle for vacations. Finding these solutions creates massive potential for growth.
In regards to tourism, we see the desire to travel as an inevitability for people. Looking at people that look to travel outside of their countries as well as those that wish to travel outside of their homes, it’s something that appeals to the young and old, individuals and families from around the world. Yet we are also seeing travelers turning away from large, structured group tours to the freedom of independent travel. People are popularizing the do-it-yourself approach of renting a car or catching a ride to see the world how they please. The trend is pushing the new breed of car rentals, including segments like self-driving cars, from emerging markets to maturation.
I mentioned that our goal is to combine various transportation needs with various modes of travel and integrating things like single-use car trips, longer duration rentals, specialty vehicles, shuttles, etc. But we are building off of our existing strengths and capabilities to pave forward on a solid foundation. We are looking first at our existing in-house Internet technology team, procurement channels, vehicle maintenance network. We have a highly successful precedent with what we accomplished in China. Within five months we tackled all major market segments and reached our target customers. Within six months, we were profitable. Now we must evolve our team and practices to reach new goals.
> And the choice of luxury cars?
Now is the era of quality of life, so to speak. Everyone is recognizing that each of us, regardless of background, has the right to enjoy life to the fullest. Providing high-quality options without a significant difference in price coincides with our belief that people tend to – in fact, feel better about – selecting the higher quality option. Therefore if we can minimize the cost through the entirety of the supply chain, we will create a reasonable price for the end-user. If we can provide the best service at relatively similar pricing, then customers will definitely choose our luxury cars.
To that end, we host a vast selection of high-end brands. We have Mercedes-Benz, BMA, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Land Rover, Jaguar, Porsche. We offer elite cars like Rolls-Royce, Bentley. And of course, sports cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren. We also carry different models of each brand. Most of our vehicles are fuel cars as defined by the market demands but some are electric. Again, this comes to choice, customers can use our rental cars to experience the privilege of driving a luxury car but of course, we will be happy to serve them if they are choosing something outside of the luxury lines. Our goal remains the satisfaction of the user.
> Looking at your current model, what areas are you investing in the most and how does this compare to other companies’ overhead?
I’d say the cost of manpower and access to vehicles is a given for every player within the rental industry. However, where we see the distinction is in the cost of stores and hubs. The number of top rental car company stores that operate around the world ranges from a few thousand to more than 10,000. These are stores that were placed there, sometimes involving large construction projects, with only limited information on the rental customer. That is where we are different from these companies. We analyze data first though the lens of Internet technology to then designate a central point of car demand. This way, we are bringing our locations closer to the customer, to grant more flexibility in how they use our service. Not only can we accept an advance reservation, but we are also in a position to send a vehicle to the user as their immediate, even spontaneous need for a car may arise.
> What is your prediction for traditional car manufacturers entering the tech-driven travel market?
The automobile manufacturing industry is undergoing a revolution. There are many factors at work including the rapid development of the mobile travel market, transportation via dispatch, and the maturation of autonomous driving technology. Car manufacturers are realizing they need to customize production to meet the needs of the new market. Their model moving forward will have to incorporate the overall change from distributed individual ownership of a property to centralized and shared use of vehicles. We have to keep in mind that the car companies were founded on the premise of sales and in contrast the goal of Internet platforms and entrepreneurs is always good user experience. As manufacturers are already embracing technology, I expect increasing cooperation with Internet platforms to produce products that better meet these new operating needs.
> How do you define “environment-friendly” and what does that mean to World Go?
From our point of view, car rental and shared use of vehicles are in themselves environmentally friendly, resource-conscious, and energy-saving. By giving people the option to use a car only as they need to, it reduces the number of cars that are purchased as a whole and does not lock owners into one vehicle. For example, if a parent needs a large vehicle with less fuel efficiency only part of the time for family transport, they won’t need to use that vehicle all of the time; they will have the freedom to switch to a more fuel-efficient model for their solo commute to work. From there, society can approach other issues such as infrastructure efficiency and emissions. In many ways, it allows us to focus on environmental protection.
> What are your biggest challenges moving forward?
It would be much easier to create a platform that is only useful for specific situations. However, our vision is to build a fully-integrated platform that can be useful in every conceivable scenario. World Go is committed to anticipating every customers’ potential needs and providing a customized solution every time. In the long run, continuously providing high-quality service is our biggest challenge. Service will be our main differentiator. The more we understand our users, the better we can prepare, and the more likely we are to evolve into a market leader.
Apple Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/world-go/id1499467014
World Go Web (Ch): http://worldgooo.com/
Contact: Yihang Duan, World Go Corporation, Diamond Bar, CA.. firstname.lastname@example.org, +(1)323-646-7777