The carpooling team has also grown, from the original three co founders to now over 50 people with one goal: to offer a new, sustainable transport alternative to all.
With over 1 billion cars in the world, Carpooling says it should be possible for everyone to have access to affordable transport. Moreover they add that road transport can still be cheap, green and fun as people share a ride, meet friends, save gas and money and reduce auto emissions!
Reminds you of a road trip you recently had with your friends?
TechZulu talked to Carpooling to find out what they are all about.
What is Carpooling.com?
Carpooling.com connects people so they can share their rides. It is the world´s leading ridesharing network, transporting over 1 million people each month.
When was it launched?
Our original German site, mitfahrgelegenheit.de, was founded as a student project in 2001. That said, the founders only committed to the project fulltime in 2008, when traffic hit over 1 million visit a month. In 2009, after their first round of investment, they launched internationally.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Carpooling.com was launched by three MBA students; Stefan Weber, Matthias Siedler and Michael Reinicke. Their backgrounds are in business, project management and engineering.
How does Carpooling work and where can it be used?
With just a few clicks, drivers can offer the empty seats in their car and passengers can find or 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).
Any user stats?
Carpooling.com offers daily access to 650,000 rides across 45 countries. The majority of our users are highly educated, young professionals between 25-39 years of age. That said, our user base is actually very diverse because whether you’re a mother in search of affordable travel, a student looking for an adventure, a business guy stuck at the airport or simply a consumer in search of the best deal … carpooling is the innovative mobility solution you are looking for.
What inspired them?
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.
Any launch into the US soon and Why?
We are planning on 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) is expected to grow 60% by 2030. 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.
Have you had any challenges? How did you resolve them?
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.
Any competition back home? How unique are you from it?
Our biggest competitor used to be in our market of origin (mitfahzentrale) but we bought them last year. All over Europe, there are hundreds of carpooling platforms at a regional level but actually we believe that our biggest competition comes from bus and train companies. What many people don’t realize is that carpooling isn’t just a solution for short commutes but also a great way to travel long distance. The majority of our rides are inter-city or even inter-country. Carpooling is often much more affordable and convenient than getting the train but the challenge is to make sure that we’re always growing the number of rides so the user can always find the route and time they are looking for.
Do you have any mentors, Investors?
Daimler AG and European VC firm Earlybird are strategic investors in our company.
What do you like about the US startup scene?
As far as entrepreneurs are concerned, the US startup scene does not seem so different than the one in Europe. What we like in the U.S. though is the visibility and support that startups get from investors and media when they release great products.
What made the founders decide to become entrepreneurs?
I don’t think any of the founders made any sort of conscious decision to “become an entrepreneur”. They just saw a market opportunity that would benefit their fellow students and decided to do something about it. The growing number of users and hard core fans of the service were a definite motivation factor.
Anything on your drawing board?
Our three key goals are: focusing on improving our product offerings, broadening our customer service and making 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.
Any stats and user testimonies?
We are about to reach 4 million registered users. We had instant success in every country where we launched in 2010: Italy, Poland, France, the UK, Spain and Greece. Our year-over-year growth rate in France, our most important market after Germany, is 460%, and we get request for our service from all over the world.
- Company fast facts can be accessed here
- User profile can be accessed here
- Country facts can be accessed here
Anything you wanna share with the Tech Zulu readers
We are launching in the U.S. very soon. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to know when we launch. Also anyone interested in promoting carpooling in their region should get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org