Doubling Down On Ridesharing

Back in February, I wrote about our investment in Sidecar. At that time, Sidecar had recently launched a marketplace model where riders can choose the drivers they want to ride with. That model has proven very popular and Sidecar’s ride volumes grew significantly after it launched. Sidecar followed up that innovation with the launch of Shared Rides this summer and is already matching thousands of shared rides every week in San Francisco.

The tech industry has grouped many different apps under the label ridesharing. The name comes from the idea that anyone can be a transportation provider by taking out their car and giving rides via an Internet network powered by mobile apps in both the driver’s and rider’s hands. That is not really how most of these networks work. In reality, what we have seen develop is a new form of a limo service powered through technology. That isn’t really ride sharing.

And to take it a step further, if there is only a single passenger in the car, that’s not really ridesharing either. True ridesharing would be me taking out my car from my garage, powering up my Sidecar driver app, and accepting rides in which as many people as possible pile into my car and I take them all where they want to go. That’s the most efficient and highest form of utilization for my car and my time and will lead to the lowest cost rides for the passengers (and the most money for the drivers).

If we really want to reduce the number of cars on the road and make ridesharing a game changer in the transportation market, we need to see a model develop where anyone can be a driver whenever they want to drive and as many people as is safe and comfortable can get in the car with the driver and get where they want to go.

That is what Sidecar is building. That is the vision they had when they started the Company, that is the vision they had when we invested last year, and that is the vision they continue to pursue.

I am very excited by the potential of Shared Rides. I don’t really see any other way that regular people who can spend a few dollars, but not tens of dollars, every day to get to work, can take advantage of ridesharing. The leaders in this market can subsidize prices and cut fees for their drivers as much as they want. But that’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is increasing the utilization of the car as much as possible. That’s Shared Rides.

At USV, we are very excited about Shared Rides and Sidecar’s commitment to rolling out Shared Rides in every market they operate in and then expanding the markets they operate in. We’ve co-led a round with our friends at Avalon and Richard Branson which the company has announced today.


Comments (Archived):

  1. kidmercury

    thanks for clarifying, i was under the impression this was the same thing as uber/hailo which struck me as odd given your typical modus operandi. true ridesharing strikes me as far more disruptive — i.e. capable of creating markets where none previously existed — than the taxi 2.0 services which strike me more as sustaining innovations to the taxi business.i do feel sorry for anyone who has committed a crime and deserves a second chance or those who have been wrongfully convicted. all these apps are going to eventually cross check for that type of stuff and those folks won’t be able to catch a ride or do anything anymore as we get deeper into the sharing economy. an app ecosystem for ex-convicts i guess…..

    1. Ed Freyfogle

      The famous New Yorker dogs using the internt cartoon has proven to be exactly wrong – with the internet everyone knows exactly who you are.

    2. JimHirshfield

      “…catch a ride…”….also they won’t be able to start fresh and become Uber drivers.

    3. Richard

      First things first, its time for Drug and Alcohol Testing ensure passenger safety.

      1. kidmercury

        no doubt. there is lots of breathalyzer hardware that should facilitate numerous methods of integration at pretty reasonable costs.

        1. Richard

          I was in a sidecar a few days ago, the driver seems high as a kite. I was going a few blocks so there wasn’t time for me to get out. I didn’t report it because of all the legal issues that could result. We need a fix for this.

          1. LE

            I didn’t report it because of all the legal issues that could result.Such as?

          2. Richard

            Let’s say I report it but it turns out I was wrong. The driver however looses his job. Does he have a cause of action against me…maybe.

          3. LE

            Well they aren’t going to fire him because you made some comment. They will possibly ask him and/or note it in the record. So if many people make the same comment they will investigate further.In cases like this I balance my own person potential harm (driver tracks me down and goes postal) with whether I would want on my conscience if something happened and the driver killed or injured someone.Then I say “would my action have been able to prevent this?” and make a decision.For example if I’m in a restaurant and get bad service from a waiter then I probably won’t say anything because I’m not in the business of helping a restaurant in that way and getting someone fired whereby they kill the restaurant manager. Otoh, I ordered a drink and it was diluted and I did write an email and complain because I felt the liquor had been diluted. So it could be the bar tender or it could be someone else in the restaurant but to me it’s close to tampering with the food and they need to pay closer attention to that. So I’m willing to do that. All depends as I usually say.

          4. Richard

            Therein is the problem, if a driver is driving under the influence, there should be no second chance. There should be a SOS button built into the app that allows passengers to has the car and its driver pulled over.

  2. JimHirshfield

    Good stuff. Another example of a misnomer.Curious on your take: were there any car use innovations available to you on your current European trek other than the traditional car rental?

    1. fredwilson

      we bought a car and are selling it back when we leave europe at an agreed upon price. it works out about the same as a rental. but we get a brand new car. and we get to pick the car we want.

      1. JimHirshfield

        wut??? Hang on, how does that work? I mean, don’t cars depreciate like 25% or so once they’re used? Is this a standard car dealership?

        1. fredwilson

          details are here…

        2. LE

          I mean, don’t cars depreciate like 25% or so once they’re used?Drive it off the lot myth?No such thing. Depends on how you buy actually. Depends on the car. Details matter. Who is buying? Etc. Time of year. All sorts of things.The last car I sold depreciated about 12.5% per year over two years. Amount I got (in trade) vs. discounted amount that I paid. The dealer priced it at 6.5% off of the price I paid (after two years!). But then again that’s me and most people don’t buy like I do. And no I didn’t overpay on the car that I got (deal was struck and I sprung the trade at the last minute it was a car that I ordered..)Of course if I wanted to sell it myself I would have done much better. But I wasn’t interested in doing that.

        3. LE

          Would also point out that people are way to fixed on all of that value loss. I mean people blow money on all sorts of things. You don’t not go on vacation because it costs money. You don’t not eat at in an expensive restaurant because it costs money. You might own a vacation home when it clearly costs more than using a hotel.Not sure why people have such a hard time with the cost (whatever it is) of having a nice new car even if it does depreciate. [1]Most likely a social proof issue. Actually that is the reason. People feel that if others do that they will be ridiculed.[1] I’m talking about the people who have money not people who don’t obviously.

        4. JamesHRH

          John McCain’s mother did this @ age 91, right? Couldn’t rent so she bought instead?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Interesting. She did this to get around the age limit?

      2. JimHirshfield

        Also…AFAIK…1. Cars are really expensive in Europe.2. Most car rental cars are fairly new.3. Car rental companies provide choice.I’m not doubting that you made the right decision, I’m just surprised as it’s very counter-intuitive. It must be that a 6 week car rental is outrageously expensive under the traditional model…and that’s what drove you to this decision (pun intended).

      3. LE

        and are selling it back when we leave europe at an agreed upon priceThis is an idea that someone has to bring here.For example I do a version of this whenever I buy a car currently.I don’t like to lease and I like to buy and sell when I want to. So what would make me happy is a service that essentially emulated leasing buyouts but allowed you to buy so there was no lease lock in. All by simply figuring out an agreed buy out price and certainty at the end of different time periods. Definitely something that could be done.My last car I kept for 2 years and the car before that I kept for 1 year. When I figured out at the end it cost me less net than if I had leased plus I had the flexibility to not care (as much) about miles or “fixed” time period constraints. I could sell at 9 months or sell at 12 months (waiting for new model years etc.).

      4. pointsnfigures


      5. jason wright

        interesting. i like the sound of this. would you be willing to mention numbers? Or, how are the numbers determined – are they pegged to an agreed total mileage?

        1. fredwilson

          i think its a price per day, just like a rental carit’s not any cheaper than a rental car, but it’s also not a lot more

      6. markslater

        you actually bought a car! so the dep on the car while you drive it was in the zone of a rental? and the person you bought from will take it back?i have to say – i would never have thought of that!

      7. kenberger

        I would love to hear the name of that service, as I may be in the market soon.

        1. fredwilson

          auto europe peugeot buy back lease program

          1. kenberger

            wow– thanks Fred.I actually know a service that does this with motorcycles in Europe.Both are extremely valuable– albeit serving small markets of mostly nutty people like us!

  3. Via User

    Via service has been doing a pretty good job so far in NYC. Worth checking them out

  4. Brandon Burns

    I’m not sure the distinction matters.”True ridesharing would be me taking out my car from my garage, powering up my Sidecar driver app, and accepting rides in which as many people as possible pile into my car and I take them all where they want to go.”That’s what’s already happening on Lyft, UberX and Sidecar. It’s just that, at least on the first two apps, its mostly people who are doing this enough hours in a week to make at least a partial living doing it.And why wouldn’t they? And why wouldn’t you want them to? Would you really want Sidecar turning down drivers who want to drive 40 hours / week away from the app in favor of those who only drive a couple hours here and there intermittently? I’d hope not. That wouldn’t be good business.

    1. fredwilson

      true. but its really just a limo service deconstructed and reconstructed in a slightly different’s more like amazon than ebay

      1. JamesHRH

        Nice parallel analogy.Power sellers on EBay are what % of transactions (not ads)? I will guess 80.

    2. LE

      Would you really want Sidecar turning down drivers who want to drive 40 hours / week away from the app in favor of those who only drive a couple hours here and there intermittently?I don’t think that is the “knitting” (as in “stick to the knitting”) that they have positioned themselves as. My daughter might think it’s cool to get a ride with a group of people like her down the shore. But taking a uber with a driver who does it for a living and stuffed with a more diverse group might not be as attractive.Likewise my 86 year old mother might do a rideshare with a bunch of old ladies to see a show. But she probably isn’t going to do a rideshare in a lyft with random people.

      1. pointsnfigures

        If I was living in the burbs and commuting to work using my car, I could get paid for car pooling.

        1. LE

          Would you want to? No way in hell I would ever car pool. I like to come and go as I please and don’t want to have a bunch of people in my car. Everybody is different.

          1. pointsnfigures

            When I lived 50 miles outside of Chicago in Geneva I was forced to drive a lot. I’d have used Sidecar to pick people up in Geneva and drive them downtown to my lot. The Loop is central, and people could have walked to their place of work easily from there. I would have done it. Would have paid for the gas. On the flipper, I probably would have driven by myself.

          2. jason wright

            yeah, but i think as this century evolves the “my car” mantra may fade away. in so many ways the personal ownership of a car is a burden.

          3. LE

            Burden? What burden. It’s fun and a joy to me. You could also say having kids is a burden by the way. How is owning a car a burden anyway don’t get that.

  5. Richard

    I grew up in a town where the cabs practiced shared rides and it was a bad experience for everybody. A car is way too small of a place for strangers.

    1. LE

      A car is way too small of a place for strangers.I agree and wouldn’t be the one to share my car but there are definitely many people who would not only do this but actually like doing that type of thing (similar to air bnb in terms of meeting new people).

    2. fredwilson

      i used to share a cab home from the train station all the time when i lived briefly in the suburbs. i found it to be a great way to meet people.

      1. LE

        That’s a great quality you have that is you are non judgmental and like to meet new people. I have a hard time with that. I have some theories on why you are like that (and why I”m not).

      2. Richard

        I hear ya. I’ve shared cabs from LGA to the city all the time. And like you I like it. But it’s different for woman, different when you meet up before you get into the cab (and its different if the pickup venue doesn’t weed out trouble).

        1. Russell

          Ha, was just thinking the same for JFK into the city!

          1. Richard

            Why do we do it? Either to save $ or to save time (cab shortage). But it always involves quick hello before joining forces. The JFK or LGA cab lineup serves as a perfect venue for sizing up your ride share.

      3. Alex Wolf

        I agree it’s more social and more fun. It’s more of a European notion though of being civil enough to share a car or train car ride. I can see it in Europe faster than here. They also have higher gas prices. Plans for that in future?

      4. Jay Bregman

        Hailo is institutionalising this with Bandwagon

  6. Chris O'Donnell

    I get to work every day via ride sharing, although we don’t use an app. I drive a short distance to a nearby commuter parking lot and stand in line for usually 5-10 minutes, during which time drivers headed to the Pentagon and other points in DC pull up and offer us rides. They get riders so they can use the carpool lanes (you need 3 in the car) and those of wiling to hop into cars with strangers get a free ride. Then I take DC Metro for the final leg. My total daily monetary cost on a 100 mile roundtrip commute is $4.40 for the subway, and slugging (as it’s called) is on average about 30-45 minutes quicker each way than the commuter trains or express busses than run from my far out suburb of DC. On days I need my car I participate as a driver.An app that powered that sort of ad-hoc cashless ride sharing would be truly revolutionary. Today slugging is only possible at rush hour on I-95 in DC. But with the advent of the tolled express lanes for non-carpooled drivers early next year, there ought to be a demand for people trying to get to DC during off-peak times too. I have no idea what the revenue model is though.

    1. JamesHRH

      100 mile daily commute.Say that to yourself very slowly about 5 times.

      1. Chris O'Donnell

        Yeah, I know. With the kids in college we are starting to line things up to move closer to town. I was telecommuting full time when we bought the country estate.

        1. JamesHRH

          People do 50 mile commutes in CGY (to Downtown) to have this view. I don’t know…../Users/Lobstick/Desktop/c3604970-single-family-1d2i1ro-o.jpg

    2. BillMcNeely

      No @RideScout?

      1. Chris O'Donnell

        I wasn’t familiar with RideScout. Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. LE

    I don’t really see any other way that regular people who can spend a few dollars, but not tens of dollars, every day to get to work, can take advantage of ridesharing.This is a great service and I think the potential is way beyond even that market (which is good for sure). For example I can see a group of students using this when they have to get home from college or to a vacation spot. In cases where the social aspect is more important than the $ cost or the money. Just to meet new friends.

  8. parisreader

    just wondering when you take into account how much time all of that takes? The idea of building a community of carpool pals sounds really cool actually :-). But what you describe, filling up the car, and dropping all of them off sounds like a Super Shuttle nightmare, when it takes forever to get to one’s destination unless it’s the first stop. It seems that there would be a point of diminishing returns, when the money saved on gas is not worth the extra time it takes to get anywhere after all of that driving… has that shown itself at all in the way drivers/riders use the service?

    1. fredwilson

      that’s where the matching algorithm comes into play. you have to know destination to do this well and sidecar is the only ridesharing app that requires destination before getting you a ride. so i think they are better positioned to do this than the others

      1. pointsnfigures

        that’s key, the matching algo. now you are creating a market.

        1. Richard

          Ok, but until the algorithm compensates the first rider for allowing the second rider into the car, what’s the motivation for sharing the ride

          1. fredwilson

            you get a lower price for the ride!

          2. Richard

            So long as sidecar gives me (the first rider) the option (and the cost savings) to approve or disapprove the new rider based on their profile and destination, I’m all in.

  9. Iampipeline

    It seems the blog site has some technical issue. Interesting to see USV doubling down on Sidecar when others thought it is already irrelevant, especially with the launch of Uber Pool and Lyft Line.

  10. Sondre Skaug Bjørnebekk

    Not sure if it this post driving the traffic, but the database seems to be down right now over at… (error message… ). Give them a ping, Fred. And I am usually all for cheering for the underdog (given Uber’s latest announcements, I think it the term is fair), so I guess *go Sidecar*!

  11. jason wright

    a sidecar -type app and google’s driverless car concept could be a fun merger. i have my google car (although it would have to be electric and from a sustainable and 100% green generation source) and set it to sidecar mode when i don’t need it. it then autonomously drives away from my home to serve app users, and then returns home when finished for the day. i whistle it back when i need it, and set maximum distance limits. cars could become the utility vehicles they ought to be and not bling status symbols (the volkswagen of the 21st century)

  12. Rafi Kronzon

    While I understand ride-sharing from an environmental point-of-view (more about that in a bit), from a venture capital point-of-view, searching for these types of market “inefficiencies” seem strange.Ride-sharing has always been popular in places in which the need outweighed the resource. It becomes self-limiting in places where people can afford to “buy out” the inconvenience of sharing by owning their own car. In these places, the market is inefficient by choice, not by need.You can argue that now technology can lower that inconvenience by finding more ride sharing partners and/or better routes, but that still doesn’t change the fact that many people in developed countries will chose to “buy out” the inconvenience as soon as they can afford it. In that sense, I can see these applications making a bigger impact in developing countries.From an environmental point of view, I worry that these ride-sharing is a step in the wrong direction. No matter how many people you jam into your Prius, you will never approach the financial and environmental advantages of public transportation. It may be that ride-sharing only further delays the inevitable investments we must make in our infrastructure to expand and improve public transportation in this country.

    1. LE

      No matter how many people you jam into your Prius, you will never approach the financial and environmental advantages of public transportation.You are only looking at one or two factors. And environment is not the be all and end all of things that matter.Forgetting that public transportation isn’t available everywhere, and excluding places which have a subway and will get you places faster than with a car or other ground transportation, using public transportation in general will take longer than direct a to b with a car.Time is money and productivity. Maybe not if you are flipping burgers or doing drone work but definitely if you are doing anything creative and productive. And there is also the stress factor, health, sleep and all of that. No environmental calculation takes that into account.Right now it would take me 24 minutes by car to get into cc philly. If I took public transportation (according to google) it takes 1 hour and 54 minutes. And there is a bus that stops right outside my office. And the place that I listed as the destination in Philly has the subway right at the corner.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Depends on the countryIn some smaller densely populated countries with enlightened attitudes to public transport it far out performs private transport on average (except for very short trips).

        1. LE

          smaller densely populated countries with enlightened attitudesEnlightened? In many cases had to do with the cost of petroleum in those countries vs. in the US. One reason that the cars were smaller as well.You are also forgetting that ownership of cars and road construction and subsequent building of the suburbs has been quite an economic boon in the US. Not to mention that the suburbs are sparse and you still need a car to get to the train station in most cases.

          1. Rafi Kronzon

            If you’re interested in the car economy vis-a-vis public transport, suburbs, etc. I recommend an enjoyable and surprising book called Green Metropolis by David Owen, a New Yorker columnist.

  13. Ned Horneffer

    You should check out local “competitor” Bandwagon, who’s total focus on about the true ride-sharing you speak of, whether its in a yellow cab or a black car.

  14. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    The ultimate rideshare – worked for me all over the world as a kidThirty years later still in touch with some of the people I met!

  15. OurielOhayon

    Congrats to them. Yup Ridesharing is about sharing a ride with other people. for once i can happily say this concept has taken off in Europe before it arrived in the USA. We invested in Blablacar which is now the largest player in the space.

  16. Leonardo Gjoni

    This makes so much sense. In third world countries A LOT of people share a ride. The driver is for example headed from Brooklyn to Boston and along the way he will stop and pickup people that are also headed to Boston. This is great for the driver because he has new conversation for the ride and makes money doing it. The riders are also paying 1/4 of the price they would if they took a taxi.Now it’s being done in a more organized and safer way with technology. I love it.

  17. jernej

    Whatever you described is not ridesharing either. You just made it a crammed taxi ride.Ridesharing is when you happen to decide to drive somewhere and look for passengers going the same way. Not when you look for passengers to tell you where they want to go (and where you otherwise wouldn’t be going on your own).Ridesharing is a nonprofit activity (you just cover the costs) not a job. Uber, lyft, sidecar and all the others are just glorified taxi/limo services that should be subject to exactly the same laws and regulaions as other taxi/limo companies. Germans were the only ones smart enough to finally stop/pause this insanity.

  18. BillMcNeely

    Currently I drive for Uber & Lyft and on the side I advertise on Craigslist to pick up customers who need a ride to and from work.Being able to combine several riders from the Uptown Dallas area into one car going the same way would be efficient.Also from the Craigslist perspective to go from Dallas to Houston I have to charge $135 for one individual.( I charge .40 a mile and .19 a minute per Google Maps). You can get on a Megabus for $25.If I could find 4 people going to Houston I could charge $30 per head and the customer gets a better experience. In addition, I could find 4 going from Houston back to Dallas I can double my income for the same amount of my time.If Sidecar ever comes to Dallas let me know.

  19. BillMcNeely

    Fred you should encourage Sidecar to work with the recently acquired Ridescout to help facilitate this activity

  20. William Mougayar

    First, congratulations! And I’ll raise you a glass of Rioja as a cheers to the Sharing Economy!!Commercial ride sharing has been around for a while, perhaps more so in less developed countries. There is the concept of “shared Taxi” where the taxi takes a known route, and clients can holler them from the street and ride along other passengers for a fraction of the cost of a personal taxi.

    1. awaldstein

      Mexico, Turkey, Morocco are the only places I’ve used this.Western world–never seen it.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup. In Lebanon too. They call it “Taxi-Service.” In the US, the closest is a shared limo or minibus from/to hotels / airports.

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          @wmoug:disqusI remember you telling me you have visited chennai (India) … did you get a chance to ride one of the versions i mentioned in the photo in my previous comment?

          1. William Mougayar

            True, I’ve been to Chennai 3 times, but was lucky enough to have a private car with driver when I visited there.The interesting part was they run a tab for you, for the entire stay, and you pay at the end, on the last day.But we shared rides voluntarily amongst company employees, just by co-ordination.

      2. Anne Libby

        Hoboken used to have this, too. Not the street hail part, but the cabs lined up at the station would pack people in, everyone would get dropped off in some order.

        1. Mike O'Horo

          When taxis are scarce relative to rider demand, e.g., in prime time, or during bad weather, at Union Station in DC they max out the number of riders per taxi and you get dropped off in some logical order.

  21. sigmaalgebra


  22. Ciaran

    Can we stop using the word sharing with regards to any of these apps? They are profit making companies (or at least hope to be) or else you wouldn’t be interested in investing in them. Otherwise this would just be digital hitchhiking.As such I am interested in how you legislate driver safety and insurance; there are plenty of problems with the licensing of existing cab services (which is what these are) and I am intrigued how these companies plan to overcome them as well.

    1. BillMcNeely

      Have you checked out zimrides?

  23. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Tata motors designed a car specifically for this purpose (share ride)and is a big hit in Indian sub-continent. 1-st Photo – TATA motors share cab.2-nd fun Photo – for people who have not seen abusing a share ride (happens only in India) … a police man questioning the driver for sharing too much … sharing the drivers seat as well 🙂

    1. Amar

      I was recently in South India. My dad pointed out that almost all of the ride share cabs in the city (madras) were violating their max capacity restrictions and rules of operation. The efficiency of this was interesting to me: the city cops had divided the city into pieces. Each cop has his/her quota of ride share operators who would give the cop their daily/weekly bribe to be allowed to operate . The cop network was tightly connected and if a ride share operator was stopped by a cop he/she did not bribe, the network was aware of the prior transaction and would not bother the operator. Efficiency and broken all at the same time :-)On a tangent: This is what uber for masses looks like in a country like India.

  24. Martin Voorzanger

    Happy to read this post. Last week, we (= Toogethr) announced the closing down of our rideshare/carpool business in the Netherlands. For more details, read our lengthy blog post on this:…In short: building a critical mass of users in combination with the required behavioral change was too much of a challenge for now. Although SideCar works differently (more real-time, LBS) it still has the same challenges IMHO

  25. kenberger

    “me taking out my car from my garage… and accepting rides”– dunno Fred, based on what Gotham Gal posts about your driving skills ! 😉

    1. fredwilson

      great point!

  26. JP

    I think that you don’t even need an app to manage rides, a city is a network of cars with free seats. I have an idea to show the number of straight segments it will continue in the same street outside the car (driven by a GPS for sure). In that way, you just “Hop!” between rides. This drawings show the concept, I’m sure that there should be something cheap to show in the windshield a simple number. In my city, I would jump 10 streets down the main avenue and this covers 80% of my trips.Take a look. Does it exist? If not, lets do it!

  27. Michigan urology

    Price 4 Limo allows you to book a limousine service and party buses throughout the United States for weddings, proms, corporate outings, and more. When booking a party bus rental or limousine rental check the rates, availability,