$1.5m for Singapore carpool app to Ryde on

It raises fund which may be used to hire more staff, improve app, add features and expand

Mr Terence Zou, 40, the founder of Ryde, a local carpooling mobile app which uses GPS technology to connect drivers and passengers going the same way.
Mr Terence Zou, 40, the founder of Ryde, a local carpooling mobile app which uses GPS technology to connect drivers and passengers going the same way. PHOTO: RYDE

SINGAPORE - Ryde, a local carpool app which was launched in April, has found favour with investors, raising $1.5 million in its seed-round funding that ended last week.

Founder Terence Zou told The Straits Times that the funds came from a few angel and private investors, but he declined to name them.

Mr Zou, 40, a Harvard Business School graduate, said the money will go towards recruiting more engineers and marketing staff, as well as enhancing the app's matching algorithm and adding more features. There are also plans to launch the app regionally, he added.

Ryde connects private-car drivers and passengers using Global Positioning System technology so they can carpool. Depending on the distance, the app proposes a payment of between $5 and $15, which the driver can choose to collect from the rider to defray the cost of the journey, such as petrol and tolls.

There are other carpool apps and websites here, such as Tripda, SwiftBack, ShareTransport.sg and Carpool. Joining the fray is GrabTaxi, which said last week that it will launch a carpooling option, called GrabHitch.

All trips have to comply with laws passed in March which stipulate, among various things, that drivers cannot solicit for passengers on the road, and can make only two carpool trips a day.

Mr Zou said: "Carpooling is not a new idea per se. What we are trying to do is infuse technology into it - real-time matching algorithms... which make it easier to find the same person going the same way."

Adding that its target users are PMETs - professionals, managers, executives and technicians - Mr Zou said: "We do not collect the money on our platform... so drivers can offer the ride for free... It's a kampung spirit of car pooling."

More than 10,000 users have signed up with Ryde, with about 60 per cent of them being passengers.

There have been 2,500 trips made through the app since April.

Ms Celeste Lee, a private home tutor in her 20s, has been using the app since July and has joined around 130 carpools. "The cost is really low, like $5 from Jurong East to Clementi, regardless of whether it is during the peak hour."

"I also get to meet people who are like-minded. Some are interested in music, like me," she added.

Driver William Tan, 30, a broker, who has done about 20 carpool trips, said carpooling helps to subsidise his petrol costs. A $5 payment, for example, is worth about two litres of 98-grade petrol, he said.

"Some riders sit in the back seat. It would be good etiquette to sit next to the driver. To carpool, I think you have to be prepared to be social," he said.

Responding to complaints by some users that they have been unable to find rides despite multiple tries, Mr Zou said: "We are cognisant (of the fact that) we can't cover everyone now. As we grow bigger, it will get increasingly easier and easier to get a match. By the law of large numbers, it will get solved."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline $1.5m for Singapore carpool app to Ryde on. Subscribe