Via raises $250M led by Daimler to bring its carpooling technology to Europe
As outsized ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft continue to build out their taxi-style marketplaces largely based around connecting individual passengers to individual drivers, a startup focused squarely on the carpooling opportunity has raised a large round of funding to expand outside of the U.S.
Via — which has developed a shuttle-based carpooling service that it offers directly in the U.S. for a flat-rate starting at $5, as well as through platform partnerships with other transportation providers — has raised what it is describing as a “strategic investment” led by German automaker Daimler to expand into Europe as well as to work more closely on other business opportunities together. Alongside this, Daimler’s Mercedes Benz division is investing $50 million into a joint venture with the startup. The full amount of funding has not been disclosed, but we understand from a source very close to the deal that it is $250 million.
The sizeable funding underscores ongoing momentum in the transportation industry to build more tech-based solutions, updating outmoded legacy infrastructure with more efficient services that can meet the new demand for on-demand. Services like Uber’s — even amidst all of the controversy around its work culture and upheaval in its executive leadership — have been gaining ground as an alternative to car ownership, but they are also eating into the business of mass-transit services.
While carpooling — where people come together in small groups to ride in the same general direction in a single car — is something that the Ubers of the world are also offering, it also presents a window of opportunity to those mass transit companies to better compete against transportation-on-demand services, and fill a hole to serve consumers who might be weighing up alternatives.
“What you’ve seen in the last few years is that the solution for on-demand shuttles has gained a lot of momentum,” CTO and co-founder Oren Shoval (who co-founded the company with Daniel Ramot) told TechCrunch in an interview. “A lot of local stakeholders have licensed our platform.” The company is also embarking on a big recruitment drive with this round.