Ridesharing is big overseas. There are a few standout startups working on ridesharing in the United States, including Iron Yard Labs startup RidePost. Established German ride sharing startup Carpooling.com is preparing for a big expansion in the US.
Carpooling.com has grown from 41,000 riders in it’s first year to well over 4 million today. They currently operate in 40 countries with their app available in 7 languages. Carpooling.com allows the rider to select someone to share a ride with based on vehicle, comfort, location and cost. This feature set insures that every rider gets to where they want to go, and how they want to get there. If you need to go 70 miles down the countryside you may want to ride with someone with a comfortable. If you’re just trying to get 15 miles to work you may be ok in a minivan. With carpooling.com the choice is yours.
Carpooling.com sees huge growth potential in the United States market. In their research they found that there’s an average of 3.75 seats available per car (not sure about that .75 part but ok) and over 3 trillion miles traveled per year. Now that startups like couchsurfing.com and airbnb.com have made it normal to share space with complete strangers, hopefully ridesharing startups can do the same for cars.
In our interview below carpooling.com tells us about their ridesharing startup, building a startup in Munich Germany and how they went from mitfahrgelegenheit.de to carpooling.com. Check out the interview below.
What is carpooling.com?
carpooling.com is the world’s leading ridesharing network, transporting 1 million people each month.
In layman’s terms, how does it work?
With just a few clicks, drivers can offer the empty seats in their car and passengers can find and book a ride. Users can choose who they want to travel with, how much space and comfort they need, where they want to meet and what they’re willing to pay. The service can be accessed by computer, mobile phone (iPhone, Android) or social network (Facebook).
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
carpooling.com was launched by three MBA students; Stefan Weber, Matthias Siedler and Michael Reinicke. The founders had no external financial support in the beginning and had to invest their own money and time in the project. With no marketing budget, they relied almost exclusively on word-of-mouth. Despite this, the carpooling platform became immediately popular, garnering more than 41,000 registered users in its first year. Today, this number has grown to nearly 4 million.
Where are you based?
Carpooling.com is based in Munich, Germany, and has a staff of around 45 people from all over the world. They have very different backgrounds and yet they all share the same goal: to offer a new, sustainable transport alternative to all.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
The German startup scene is thriving, with companies choosing Berlin, Munich or Hamburg as their worldwide hub. Munich is Germany’s high-tech hub with the headquarters of major players in electronics, engineering and the automotive industry. The city has one of the highest quality of life indexes in the world and is also a centre for progress and sustainability. Munich is one of Europe’s greatest cycling cities and, by 2025, there will be enough eco-power to cover the entire city’s energy consumption – making it the world’s first big city to achieve this ambitious climate target. Within this culture of high-tech efficiency, convenience and sustainability, carpooling is the perfect fit.
Are there plans to take carpooling.com international?
We have already established an international presence with rides in over 40 countries, and a service available in 7 languages.
How did you come up with the idea for carpooling.com?
While studying at university, one of the founders had a girlfriend who lived in another city. Unfortunately he didn’t own a car so, in order to visit her, he had to shell out a lot of money each weekend on expensive train tickets. One day he thought: “If only there was a website where students could connect with other people driving to their destination! The drivers would save money on gas and I would have a comfortable ride to my girlfriend’s city” – And just like that, the carpooling platform was born.
How did you come up with the name?
The site actually originally launched under the name mitfahrgelegenheit.de – which roughly means “drive together” in German. Unfortunately, ‘mitfahrgelegenheit’ doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue in English… The founders quickly realized that the need for better mobility solutions was universal so they decided to change the name to ‘carpooling’ for its international expansion.
What problem does carpooling.com solve?
Rising gas and transport prices mean that many people are looking for solutions to reduce their transport budget and many are also concerned about our planet and how they can contribute to reducing their carbon footprint. We wanted to provide a service that is easy to use and that addresses both these concerns.
By transforming the empty seats in people’s cars into an extensive transportation network, carpooling.com helps people to save money, reduce carbon emissions and meet new friends.
What’s your secret sauce?
Our secret sauce? Probably the fact that our offer is simple, affordable and convenient. Carpooling enables anyone with limited budget to go from A to B. With our free iPhone and Android mobile apps, carpooling can also be spontaneously organized on the go. People enjoy meeting new people in their community. What’s not to love?
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
The biggest dilemma is learning how to innovate over time while staying true to your core brand. Our success metric is always our users so we’re constantly trying to introduce new features, to find new ways of making our service better.
The fact that more than 30 million rides have been posted on our platform is truly a testament to the support of our users. To know that we connect millions of people around the world, facilitate friendships, and help our users save money, is truly a gratifying and satisfying experience.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The biggest challenge was when we decided to expand internationally. Users kept pushing the boundaries with more and more trips abroad but entering a new market is not so easy. What users may value in the UK or the US may be very different to Germany or France. In terms of carpooling, you have to consider geography, language and infrastructure. In most countries, we even had to explain what carpooling is! That said, we see today that it is working everywhere because whether you’re in Poland or Spain, affordable transport is always a universal concern.
What’s the first thing you would do with a one million dollar investment?
That’s a great question because we actually just received a Series C funding round from Daimler so it’s a question that we’ve had to address very recently. We will be utilizing the new capital to further improve our mobile apps, broaden our customer service and make carpooling available to even more users worldwide.
Ridesharing is all about reaching critical mass. More users means more rides. And more rides means there’s more of a chance you will find the trip you want. At the moment, users have daily access to more than 650,000 travel opportunities but we’re even more ambitious. Ideally, we want carpooling to become as easy and as precise as checking the bus or train schedule.
What’s next for carpooling.com?
The next big step will be launching in the U.S. later this year. In the U.S. the existing infrastructure for carpooling is excellent because people own cars. The estimated number of empty seats in an average trip is 3,75 and the total number of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the U.S. is 3 trillion. This is a country where people drive a lot, where distances are increasingly longer, where traffic is always an issue and where commuting is getting more expensive every day. In many ways, it’s the perfect country for ridesharing so we’re very excited about launching there.
Check out carpooling.com here
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