Rival Gets $1.5m Weeks After Grabtaxi Launch

“Two Christmases ago, I decided to leave my car at home during a shopping trip to Orchard Road,” says Terence Zou, who’s based in Singapore. “After being stranded in town for a few hours not getting a taxi with all my shopping in tow as many empty cars passed me by, I thought to myself that there was clearly an optimization problem here. There must be a solution to this problem.”

That led Terence to start up Ryde, a carpooling app that’s initially focused on his city-state.

“The problem is evident when one tries to take the bus or train in the morning where there are long waiting times. Simply put, our trains, buses and taxis cannot handle the surge in demand during peak hours,” adds the Harvard Business School graduate.

Singapore
New car prices in Singapore are about four times higher than in most other countries. Photo: William Notowidagdo.

Saving money

Transportation woes have been a hot talking point in Singapore all year as the subway system saw a record number of delays and major disruptions. A car is not a solution for most people due to the insane cost of buying a vehicle in the nation. You’d need to hand over S$129,999 (US$91,900) to buy a new Honda Civic in Singapore – a tad more expensive than a Tesla Model S 85D in the US.

Carpooling, then, gives Singapore’s drivers a way to recoup some of the costs of hitting the road – especially for the daily commute. Terence wants Ryde to be that kind of solution.

The Ryde team today announced it has received US$1.5 million in seed funding to help build up the app. The money comes from “strategic angel and private investors.”

Ryde, available for Android and iOS, will be up against the mighty GrabTaxi, which earlier this month rolled out the GrabHitch option for carpooling. Uber operates in Singapore but it doesn’t (yet) have an UberPool option.

“We run our own race,” says Terence, referencing the rival apps. “We were the first to launch and we focus on the social aspects of carpooling. Our drivers are not taxi drivers and carpool to save some costs, meet new people and save the environment. We provide a platform for them to meet new people and do some good.”

GrabTaxi’s rideshare feature does pretty much the same. “In line with Singapore carpooling regulations, GrabHitch drivers will only be able to accept up to two rides a day, and the fares will only cover the driver’s variable costs, such as petrol and car depreciation,” explained the company recently.

Ryde launched in April and now has 10,000 active users. Despite having a strong rival, it still has a chance to do carpooling right, especially as the daily commute is a pre-planned thing that’s different from the on-demand nature of finding a ride through GrabTaxi or Uber.

Terence also sets Ryde apart as a civic-minded business that’s officially registered with Singapore authorities as a “social enterprise.” While it is a for-profit business, he sees the idea of helping save the environment as part of the attraction that will bring users to the app.

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