By Anna Colibri
Guy de Lacrose, a well-dressed man in his 60s, is one of those rare human beings who defies expectations, inspires you to do your best, and helps you feel the warmth of his personality while he does it.
A serial entrepreneur, Guy’s different businesses have been National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) certified Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) since 2013. His most recent project, Karasel Technologies, LLC, is the parent company of the Korral app, which won first place at the 2016 NGLCC Business Pitch, which earned his company $10,000 in cash and $20,000 in branding by CMYK, a New York-based certified LGBTBE branding agency.
Read on to find out more about Guy, his work, and his commitment to the GGBA and NGLCC, along with his interesting and unique achievements and world views.
About Guy de Lacrose
A sixth generation St. Tropezien, Guy has lived in San Francisco for almost 40 years and now considers himself a proud Californian. In fact, he surprised me by knowing the year and duration of California’s Bear Flag Rebellion (1846 and three weeks, to be exact). How many native Californians can say the same?
Family life consists of husband Francis de Lacrose, with whom he has been married for three years. They were married on Nob Hill at his brother’s home, not far from the couple’s own Nob Hill home. Weekends are often spent with Guy’s son from a previous marriage and two grandkids, with one on the way. As Guy says, “We are a close-knit family.”
Almost 30 years ago, after Guy sold one of his businesses, a friend who owned a transportation company asked him to help drive a few clients for him. As Guy tells it, “My first job was to drive the then King of Norway from his hotels to the consulate and to visit his friends.”
After a royal start to his career in transportation, Guy was offered a job to join a husbanding business, which is a maritime transportation service. He was in charge of the largest gathering of tall ships (three masted vessels) in the Bay Area in 1999 for the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of California. After successfully organizing this large event, Guy was put in charge of all transportation services for the US Navy vessels in North America and organized fleet weeks across the country.
Following his stint with the navy, Guy bought and sold various auto businesses, the last one being a group and tour business that he sold a year and a half ago to concentrate on his latest venture, which is a transportation app inspired by his work with the San Francisco Travel Association (SFTA). Because he was managing all the transportation for the SFTA for their convention organizers and executive committee meeting, he saw up close their professional frustration at dealing with issues like surge pricing from ride hailing companies and long lines for taxis.
Karasel Technologies, LLC
Guy, with his extensive experience in the San Francisco travel, transportation, and tourism industries, knew there were many alternatives, and that was how he came up with the concept of being able to access comparative pricing. “A bit,” says Guy, “like Kayak, or the other online pricing sites.” Guy’s next step was to find a developer, Dan Lopez, and a director of marketing, Fred Arellano, to round out the Karasel Technologies, LLC team.
Developed to solve the problem of managing different ride services and changing price points, the Korral app allows people to shop in real time for ride services and ultimately to book rides directly from the app. All of this comes at no direct cost to the consumer. Simple yet brilliant!
With the Korral app you can:
- See all local services
- Book with the provider directly (currently Wingz and DriveForce)
- Select the desired type of service (standard, chauffeur, or pool)
The ultimate goal is to allow direct booking from the app for all local providers. Says Guy, “We want the app to be convenient, time-saving, and easy to use.”
When asked why he likes the transportation business, Guy has this to say: “The appeal of the transportation business is that I love the San Francisco Bay Area. You meet new and like-minded people all the time, and you can help them find all of the beautiful spots in the area. The basis of all the work I have done, whether it has been transportation, large events, or tourism, is service. I want to serve my clients as best as possible.”
Guy’s approach to app marketing is very different from standard app launches, which often rely on big digital marketing budgets. “Knowing the market,” says Guy, “especially in SF, which is an innovation city, I know that it is very, very expensive to do marketing programs. The strategies we wanted to use and the targets we are focusing on are the conventions.”
“The convention organizers loved the Korral app idea. This kind of partnership with the SF Travel Association will benefit them and their conventioneers as well as us.
“A second avenue of marketing is that, as we are part of NGLCC, we have lots of companies that have programs for diverse suppliers, and we have already half a dozen companies that are interested in pushing us with their employees to manage their travel costs.”
“We are starting in San Francisco, but will adapt to the providers in the other cities. Our director of marketing (Fred Arellano) is in the process of building partnerships with all the local partners.” The next planned cities are Los Angeles, followed by New York.
We are also looking for investors for the second phase to develop an Android version in addition to the iOS version and move into new cities.
Although Korral app’s ride has so far been a smooth one, I asked Guy about challenges. “I needed to be really patient during the app development process, but I have two great partners who are very well-grounded and resourceful, so that supported me through it. We are a good team,” he said. “The other challenges are typical business challenges: how to meet the right people and how to convince them our idea is a good one and they should be involved.”
GGBA & NGLCC
I asked Guy about his association with the GGBA and NGLCC, and he said that the main reasons he is certified are “all of the support and the local resources and events.”
Guy regularly attends Make Contacts, and singled out the Mega Make Contact at the LGBT Center, the March Make Contact held in conjunction with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce March at the Women’s Center, and the June Make Contact at The Tenderloin Museum. He also regularly attends the NGLCC Conference, and will be in Las Vegas this year with his husband. Of course, winning the 2016 Biz Pitch stands out as a highlight.
The Value of Certification
Asked about the value of LGBTBE certification, Guy says, “[It’s] the contacts that you can make, the ideas you can share, the connection you feel, and the community you have, and the ability to contribute to the LGBT business community. For example, I am pushing a fellow gym member, who showed a film at Sundance, to join right now.”
As my time with Guy drew to a close, I asked Guy more about his life perspective.
Why Guy Loves the Bay Area
“It’s a fun place to live in,” says Guy. “It’s a fantastic hotbed of idea exchange, of innovation, and shows that at any age you can start something in the technology sector. The energy of creativity is powerful in the Bay Area.”
What It Means to Be Gay
“When you are a member of a minority group it is important to be open and inclusive. I was bisexual for many years, and then I met Francis. It is a sign of a small mind to judge people for their choices. You cannot be anyone else’s shoes. I hope to be a kind and open person, but when I am not my husband quickly puts me back on track!”
Advice to Business Owners at Any Age or Stage
“Follow your dreams. Work hard. Enjoy life. But mainly, follow your dreams and don’t give up and don’t give yourself limitations. I’ve been running on and off my whole life and then eight years ago I decided to run the Midnight Sun Run Marathon, an AIDS fundraiser, in Alaska. I trained for 6 months and completed the marathon at 58. It was an absolutely exhilarating experience. I cried across the finish line.”
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