It’s not often that you see European startup factory Rocket Internet launch one of its companies in the U.S. More often than not, its businesses take ideas that have been successful here and then leverage its massive development and distribution network to bring them to markets where a U.S. version hasn’t yet launched.
But that’s not the case with Tripda, which is a new ride-sharing marketplace that Rocket Internet has decided to bring to the states.
Tripda was founded to connect passengers who wish to go to a certain place with drivers who are traveling in that direction. But unlike Uber or Lyft, Tripda isn’t about short rides in a particular city — it’s more about long-range trips between cities. In that way Tripda is a lot more like Europe’s BlaBlaCar or Zimride, the ride-sharing startup that eventually became Lyft.
Through its marketplace, users will be able to sign up with their Facebook accounts and search for a route between New York City and Philadelphia, for instance, based on when they would like to travel. The company doesn’t specify the cost of rides — those are set by the driver — but eventually it will take a small cut of the transaction, just as Airbnb does when someone completes a stay in a host’s home.
Tripda first launched in May, initially going after emerging markets in Latin America and Southeast Asia. It’s currently available in 10 countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, The Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and India. But opening up operations in the U.S. was always a part of the company’s plan, according to CEO of North America Adi Vaxman.
That’s because the company sees a huge opportunity to serve a part of the market that Uber, Lyft, and other companies have largely left behind. Vaxman notes that the trend of car ownership going down amongst millennials is creating a largely untapped market segment for people needing to find ways to travel between longer distances.
If that idea sounds familiar, it’s because others have tried it in the past. San Francisco-based Zimride worked on the problem for about five years before deciding that it was easier to get users to adopt ride-sharing for intracity travel and launched Lyft as a result.
But Vaxman believes there will be more demand as time goes on, particularly among college students and young professionals who are increasingly moving to urban areas without buying cars.
She recounted her own struggle trying to find rides back home from Ithaca, N.Y. to New York City while in college. That’s a route, she says, that hasn’t gotten any easier over time to book. But Tripda could change that, particularly for trips around the holidays and school breaks.
Tripda has a team of two co-founders based in New York City and two in Brazil. Vaxman, who previously worked on bringing Israeli transportation service GetTaxi to the U.S., shares the co-founder title with former Deloitte consultant Joe McFarlane in North America. Meanwhile, the emerging markets group is being run by co-founders Pedro Meduna and Eduardo Prota out of Latin America.
The company’s initial focus on the U.S. will be on trying to get users in the Northeast and Midwest to start using the service. It hopes to benefit from launching around the holidays, when a number of people travel home to visit family. But marketplaces are hard, and this type of travel is largely seasonal in nature, so it could take a while for the company to really take off.
The good news for Tripda is that Rocket Internet is no slouch when it comes to backing companies that are founded under its umbrella. Vaxman wouldn’t say how much Rocket Internet has invested, but the young company already has a distributed workforce of around 70 employees and it’s looking to hire more.
Photo Credit: Ilanit Solomonovich Habot