Australia’s only women-friendly ridesharing platform Shebah has turned to equity crowdfunding to raise the working capital required to fund the next phase of growth ahead of its launch into New Zealand in 2019.
Shebah has rolled out nationally in Australia and is gearing up to launch into the New Zealand market amid a range of tech upgrades on the back of a whopping 190 percent increase on number of users year-on-year.
The privately-owned company was founded by Melburnian George McEncroe and promises women safe transportation without harassment.
Shebah provides a safe, flexible and rewarding opportunity for women looking for work and economic empowerment. The national fleet of women drivers have Working with Children checks and as part of the driver onboarding program, women can access financial education on superannuation, managing GST and insurance.
Why is Shebah looking to equity crowfunding?
Despite strong growth, venture capital has been hard to come by. McEncroe says sexism is rife among potential lenders.
“What we decided to do was bring the fruits of our success into the hands o the women who helped us grow; our drivers and our passengers,” she says.
Shebah has experienced an 8 per cent jump per month throughout 2018, and a whopping 190 per cent increase on 2017. The company turned over $1.8 million in 2018, up from $500,000 in 2017. George wants “the whole community to share in this success.”
The Australian rideshare industry is worth $290 million and the taxi industry is worth $6 billion, and Shebah is targeting women and children in both categories. The rideshare market is growing at 14 per cent year-on-year, with this rate forecast to continue for a decade, *according to IBISWorld.
“The business world just doesn’t understand how difficult it is for women founders to raise funds to grow their respective businesses.
“People say there’s investment money around, but it’s being held by male gatekeepers who just can’t accept what it’s like for women to travel in other rideshares or taxis and feel the kind of fear a man would never feel if they were in the same scenario,” McEncroe says.
The scenario is more proof of the sexism toward women-owned startups – particularly those that service a women-only customer base,” she says.
“Men perhaps don’t understand what it is like to sit in the back seat,” Ms McEncroe says.
“And if women are coming home late, they don’t know the city they’re in very well, or have had a few drinks, they still have the right to get home safely and without feeling dread or fear.”
But Ms McEncroe isn’t one to be deterred. Shebah is about to embark on a bold equity crowdfunding bid to raise up to $3 million to fund the next round of growth as the company grows its national footprint after strong support from Australian ridesharing customers.
What will Shebah use this funding for?
Capital raised will enable the company to grow its geographical footprint in Australia, launch into the New Zealand market and embark on some bold user experience improvements after rapid growth in 2018.
Despite strong growth as word spreads that there’s an alternative to male-driven rideshare – there are still more passengers than drivers – prompting McEnroe to get behind the wheel as a driver on weekends to help grow her business.
“Shebah’s growth is evidence that getting home safely without fear is not easy for women in Australia.
“My hope is that the proving demand for a women-only ride sharing service will encourage the taxi and rideshare industry to improve safety for all drivers and passengers, all genders.”
“One of the most common things passengers say about Shebah is that they can finally sit in the front seat of the car – like men do.
“All police safety advisements suggest women should sit in the back seat for their safety. But why should we have to? We’re adult women. Children sit in the back seat and I’m not a child. We should be able to sit anywhere we like and feel completely safe.”
Some of McEncroe’s drivers work for both companies. She sees it as an adjunct to the bigger picture – the continual growth of the broader ride share market.
The cumulative total number of downloads in the two years since the platform launched is 111,103, while the platform is inching towards 3,000 drivers located around the country, either active, or awaiting to drive.
The service is available in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and is launching soon in Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide.