Meet the Man Behind Those Hot Pink Mustache Rides
If you’ve spent any time in San Francisco recently, chances are you’ve seen cars driving around town with enormous hot-pink plush handlebar mustaches strapped to their hoods. The mustaches signal that the drivers are part of Lyft, the peer-to-peer ride-sharing service.
There are lots of interesting things about Lyft — it’s a quick-growing example of “collaborative consumption,” where people pool their time and resources; it’s facing regulatory challenges as it takes on the incumbent taxi system – but let’s pause on those pink mustaches for a second. Where did they come from, and who came up with the idea?
That would be Ethan Eyler, a San Francisco entrepreneur who dreamed up the idea of the “Carstache” in 2010, and quit a marketing job at Tencent to make his own fuzzy hood ornaments full-time.
Eyler comes off as a grown-up frat dude (which he is; he graduated with an English degree from Bucknell in 2003) who’s living the dream of making his own wacky ideas come to life, for a profit.
Carstache’s largest single customer is Lyft, though, according to Eyler, more than half his business is from holiday “white elephant” gifts. Eyler said the company has a “six-figure business” selling mustaches of all different colors for about $40 each, with most manufacturing now done in China.
I’d been wondering whether the Lyft car ornaments would start looking tired and dirty once winter hits, but Eyler insisted that the Carstaches keep their color for a year. If it rains, he said, more driving is nature’s blowdryer.
Two downsides of Carstaches that Eyler would admit to: Per his insurance broker’s advice, they come with a warning not to be used on the freeway (though many people disregard this), and they do tend to get stolen.
But Carstache isn’t Eyler’s only crazy idea. More recently he has been working on a start-up called RunWilder, which creates mobile games and online video series around comedic characters. He has raised $350,000, and hired people from LucasArts and Maker Studios to help make this all come to life.
RunWilder’s first product is an iOS app with a live-action interactive puppet named Ozgood — users can feed beer and burgers to him until he barfs.
Ozgood is totally tasteless but actually kind of funny — it’s like Talking Tom for adults — but Eyler said there were too many limitations in making a 21+ app. Ozgood was rejected by Apple four times until RunWilder removed text references to beer, and it doesn’t stand a chance of getting featured in the App Store.
So, while the Ozgood puppet is headed back to filming for a Web series, RunWilder is on to its next game, this time for kids. Burt Destruction is a side-scrolling game that stars an 11-year-old kid, his “Rambo/Hulk hybrid” alter ego, and his sidekick Bigfoot, as they fight off yetis, robot mastadons and leprechauns. The mobile game and accompanying Web series are due in January.
What’s next for Carstache? Eyler said he has recently been dreaming about making a mullet for pickup trucks.