Dubai's first ride-sharing company raises $350,000

Carpool Arabia cofounders Benjamin de Terssac and Guillaume Arnaud
Carpool Arabia, Dubai’s first private ride-sharing company, has secured its first round of funding and will use a $350,000 investment to create a mobile application and enhance marketing activities for its service.

“We launched the platform and after a few months, 95 percent of the traffic was coming from people who want to commute from home to the office,” Benjamin de Terssac, co-founder of Carpool Arabia, said. “Now we are coming with a product before the end of the year, a mobile app that will be easier to use for people on the go.”

Carpool Arabia is an in5-incubated tech start-up. It used a Dubai-based, crowd-investing platform to raise half of its funds from family and friends. For the other half, it went to angel investors, initially focusing its efforts on the local market.

“We’d been looking for money from here in the UAE,” de Terssac said. “We had a product that would solve a problem for this region, thus we thought the people who would be most interested in solving this problem would be people from here.”

However, that was not the case. It instead found half the funding from a venture capitalist in France, and the other half from a French businessman in Dubai. Though slightly disappointed by the lack of local investor enthusiasm, company officials hope the current investment will also catapult their marketing activities.

Carpool Arabia started when de Terssac realized he was spending more than $260 and three hours in a taxi every day on his commute from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. There was nothing he could do about the congestion, but as he looked around to the other cars, he noticed that most of them had few, if any, passengers. That’s when the idea of Carpool Arabia hit him.

“There were thousands of people on the road and I wanted to connect them,” de Tressac said. “We want to give you the comfort and experience of a car ride at the price of public transportation fare. “

According to the Dubai Road and Transportation Authority, there are 541 private cars per 1,000 people in Dubai. Carpool Arabia aims to help drivers fill the empty seats, have company on the way to and from work, and help offset fuel costs.

Most importantly, Carpool Arabia offers a way for users to feel comfortable when catching a ride. They are able to talk to the drivers directly without giving away any personal information.

Carpool Arabia verifies user’s email and mobile phone numbers. To have a verified account, users need to link their Carpool Arabia profile to their Facebook profile. They are encouraged to put up pictures of themselves and the car they commute with. De Terssac said passenger and driver feedback is essential.

“This is where the trust comes in,” he said. “We have a system to make sure you can only comment on drivers you have ridden with, then you always have the ability to leave feedback. All this information increases the trust they have in the driver or the passenger.”
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