The 10 Most Exciting Rideshare Startups of 2018
Despite their ups and downs, Uber and Lyft have captured the lion’s share of the ridesharing market in the United States. However, dozens of other rideshare (and bikeshare) firms have launched in the last year, devising new strategies to appeal to niche riders. From bicycles to automobiles to scooters, these 10 companies are challenging consumers to get mobile in a completely new and modern way.
While Lyft is still only available in the U.S. and a couple of cities in Canada, Uber has already tussled with a few of these companies overseas. The results, so far, have not been great for Uber.
Estonia seems like an unlikely place for one of the world’s most successful rideshare companies, but founder Martin Villig had plenty of experience in the world of startups. An early employee of Skype, Villig had already founded three startups and startup associations before he devised Taxify. His younger brother Markus and Oliver Leisalu, a web developer, joined him in launching Taxify in 2013. Unlike Uber, Taxify originally focused on connecting commuters to licensed cab drivers. The company eventually moved into hiring individual private drivers as well. Taxify quickly spread throughout Europe and Africa, having little trouble finding investors. By 2018, they had collected over $170 million in funding and had reached unicorn status. They are now challenging Uber in Europe and Africa
2. Didi Chuxing
Before they starterd Didi in 2012, founders Bo Zhang and Cheng Wei worked at Baidu and Alibaba. Using their experience in the tech industry, they debuted the cab-hailing service in Beijing. The pair’s business model enticed China’s Tencent conglomerate to invest in the nascent company to the tune of $13 million. Despite an attempt by Uber to horn in on the Chinese ridesharing market, Didi continued to attract massive investment. The company gobbled up competitor Huaidi Dache in 2015 and acquired Uber’s China assets in 2016. Today, Didi regularly makes investments in other companies and has become China’s most valuable startup, with an estimated value of $56 billion. Now, they’re challenging Uber in Mexico. Also, they have great commercials.
Some consumers prefer to take the wheel themselves, and Getaround was designed to appeal to these customers. The startup was born at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University business incubator in 2009. The company’s three co-founders wanted to help users easily find rental cars. The Getaround app connects car owners with people who need to rent a vehicle. The startup has raised more than $100 million from firms like Menlo Ventures and Toyota. In addition to Californian cities, Getaround is now available in more than 10 cities, including Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago.
In 2010, it became apparent to a pair of Mumbai engineering students that the city’s notoriously congested streets were the perfect market for an online ridesharing service. However, Ola didn’t really take off until 2013 when the founders added a mobile app and expanded into Delhi and Bangalore. In 2014, Softbank and Sequoia invested a combined $250 million into the company. By 2016, Ola had expanded to over 100 cities in India. Today, Ola operates in both India and Australia and is valued at close to $4 billion.
5. Lime Bike
While other startups were busy wrapping up the ridesharing market, the founders of Lime Bike saw the potential in bicycles. After a Series A funding round of $12 million, Lime Bike introduced their distinctive dockless green bikes in North Carolina in June 2017. The company has grown like wildfire, spreading through California, Arizona, Florida, Texas and even Hawaii. With the help of Rainbow Technologies and venture capital firm Fifth Wall, Lime completed a $70 million Series B round in February 2018. In May, they added electric scooters to their fleet.
Tan Hooi Ling and Anthony Tan were students at Harvard Business School when Uber began its meteoric rise. They realized they could apply a similar business model in Southeast Asia. The startup began in Singapore as a taxi-hailing service, but quickly expanded into individual and group rides in private cars and shuttles. Investors like SoftBank and Tiger Global Management pumped millions of dollars into the company, helping it reach a $1 billion valuation in only two years. In 2018, Grab received a large influx of cash from Hyundai, allowing it add bicycle rentals and food delivery to its services.
A relatively new arrival to the ridesharing scene, Bird is the brainchild of Travis VanderZanden, the former COO of Lyft. VanderZanden left another job as a Vice President of Uber to launch his electric scooter startup in 2017. The company’s dockless electric scooters first popped up in Santa Monica in fall 2017. In just a few months, the startup had expanded into San Francisco, San Diego, Austin and Dallas. Bird has picked up plenty of investors in less than a year. The company has raised over $260 million from firms like Sequoia and Index Ventures. In May, the company’s rapid rise paid off when it was valued at $1 billion. Just a month later, they’re now valued at $2 billion.
After a team of entrepreneurs spotted a gap in the French market, they launched Blablacar to help commuters carpool around the country. Unlike other ridesharing apps, Blablacar was intended to match riders based on their level of chattiness. Blablacar received its first substantial investment from Accel in 2012. Since then, the company has spread throughout Europe, India, Turkey, Mexico and Brazil. The company has garnered around $330 million since its launch and recently rolled out its own car insurance plan, Blablasure.
The carsharing startup was originally intended to be a sort of Airbnb for cars, connecting car owners with prospective renters. Shelby Thomas Clark first started Turo in 2009 when he was a student at Harvard. Over the years, the company expanded into other American and Canadian cities. Turo grew further in 2017 when they acquired Daimler’s Croove car-sharing service. In 2018, Turo added luxury cars like Porsches and Bentleys to their stable of rentals. Just this week, they launched Turo Go, which allows instant rentals through it’s app.
While working on a finance degree at Peking University, Wei Dei decided to use technology to connect bicycle owners with people needing a ride. Working with a group of like-minded classmates, Wei built the campus bike-sharing service into a country-wide startup, providing bikes to millions of Chinese cyclists. Ofo soon caught the attention of some of China’s biggest venture capital firms like ZhenFund and DST Global. The company achieved a $1 billion valuation in 2017 and now operates in over 15 countries, including the U.S., Australia and Russia.
From car rental services to individual bicycle rides, these ridesharing companies are changing the face of urban transport forever. By launching in unconventional markets and eschewing outdated business practices, these startups have been able to flourish in the face of stiff competition. As the ridesharing sector continues to grow worldwide, these companies are expanding across borders and finding new patrons. Look for many of them to start showing up in the Western hemisphere in 2018 and 2019.