ride-sharing

After Giving Away Thousands Of Free Rides At SXSW, SideCar Expands To Three New Markets

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Just a few days after providing free rides to SXSW attendees in Austin, ride-sharing startup SideCar is announcing plans to continue expansion into new markets. The company, which previously launched in a number of major cities throughout the U.S., is moving east — making ride shares available in Boston, Chicago, and Brooklyn, NY.

SideCar operates a service that connects passengers looking for a ride with drivers who have a car and some spare time on their hands. The whole thing is orchestrated through mobile apps that try to find the nearest available driver and sends them to pick a passenger up. Those passengers then pay a “donation” for the ride.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months for SideCar, which launched in San Francisco last summer and expanded to Seattle in the fall. But since then, it has rapidly ramped up the number of markets that it’s available in, launching in Austin, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

The next three markets are all part of SideCar’s plans to make its presence felt on the East Coast as well as the West. With Boston, Chicago, and Brooklyn on board, the company will have many more drivers available in more markets than the nearest ride-sharing competitor, San Francisco-based Lyft. That company is still in just two markets, but has plans to cautiously expand as time goes on.

That said, SideCar won’t be available all the time in its three new markets, at least not at first. The company has implemented a rollout plan which typically only has drivers on the weekends for a few weeks, before gradually expanding its hours as more people sign up to offer rides. At first, it’ll be available from 5:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. in Boston, Chicago, and Brooklyn.

SideCar’s expansion, while fast, hasn’t been without its bumps in the road. The company has received a cease and desist notice and fines from the California Public Utilities Commission for operating an unlicensed limo services. And it came up against regulators in Philadelphia, where the local police impounded the cars of three SideCar drivers in a sting operation.

In Austin, where it hoped to attract thousands of new users at SXSW, the city council passed an ordinance which would allow police there to also impound the vehicles of drivers without taxi licenses offering up paid rides. To ensure that SXSW riders wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire, it made all rides free, paying drivers hourly as brand ambassadors during the conference. It also sued the Austin’s Department of Transportation to try to legitimize its service in the city.

SideCar has raised funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Google Ventures, Spring Ventures, Huron River Ventures, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, First Step Fund, Jeff Clarke, Lisa Gansky, Robert Goldberg, Jared Kopf, Konstantin Othmer, Mark Pincus, Martin Roscheisen, Josh Silverman, and Thomas Varghese. That includes a $10 million round last October announced along with its expansion plans.