The ridesharing-disruptive car service space in the U.S. is about to get a little more crowded: Carpooling.com, a ridesharing service out of Munich, Germany currently enabling million rides monthly, is today announcing a C-round of investment from carmaker Daimler, which it will be using to expand to the other side of the Atlantic starting in the fourth quarter of this year. Financial terms of the investment have not been disclosed but TechCrunch has heard from a reliable source that it is €8 million ($10 million).
The deal makes Daimler a strategic investor in the company. Other existing investors include the European VC firm Earlybird, which has invested in the company’s previous two rounds, as well as Carpooling.com’s founders.
Carpooling.com’s entry into the U.S. comes at a time when services like Uber are expanding fast, and carsharing services that compete more directly with Carpooling are just starting to take off, too. Zimride in April said it had clocked up 26,000 carpools among 350,000 registered users. If Carpooling.com can grow at the same pace as it has done in the 40 countries, covering four million registered users, where it already operates, that would make it potentially a very strong competitor for Zimride. However, a spokesperson notes that in reality it’s great that Zimride exists to help establish the market. “Our real competitors are train companies and other public transport providers,” she noted.
While Carpooling says that some of the funds will also be used to update services like mobile apps, it would not comment on whether it would also be used to expand into new areas of business — like taxi services.
“We will be building out our global presence by integrating different mobility options to give users the best way to get from A to B,” said CEO Markus Barnikel. “This could include car sharing offerings from OEMs or other companies as well as train, buses, planes or even bicycles.”
While car-sharing and car-service companies can be thought of as the “OTT” players of the automotive world (akin to companies like Netflix in the video/TV world), the investment by Daimler is an example of how those that are incumbent in that industry are trying to change with the times. Like other car makers, Daimler has been developing products that fall into the category of “mobility services,” to be used in in-car systems, be it their own or those of others. In Daimler’s case that has included an investment in MyTaxi (a European Uber), and the short-term urban pick-up/drop-off car rental service car2go. That latter service now has 130,000 users.
Daimler has also been working on a “mobility platform” called moovel, which it launched this month; and has been piloting ridesharing services in two German cities, Ulm and Aachen.
Carpooling.com says that the investment by Daimler will leave the door open for it to work with other carmakers in future on similar services. But for now this is a sign that “Daimler believes in us and we share the same vision,” says a source at the company.
[Image: Farfromthepicture, Flickr]