If two people are going in the same direction, why not share a ride, lower the cost, and save on money and gas? This was the logic that the founders of CleverShuttle had in mind when they formed the company in Munich in 2014. Now, five years later, the on-demand ride-pooling startup has taken off and currently operates in Germany’s seven largest cities, with potential expansion plans in the works.
Ride-pooling platforms have taken off in the last few years, with companies in Germany such as CleverShuttle, MOIA, and ViaVan vying to bring customers out of their private cars and into their services. And while they can be similar, there are several important differences in their approaches. From the way their algorithms function to the employment and training of their drivers, each platform has a unique approach.
CleverShuttle considers itself more than a ride-pooling algorithm, arguing that what sets it apart is in the details of the service. With the app, you can book your ride and agree to a set price for the journey. You’ll then be picked up in an electric car by a professional driver and dropped off in your exact destination. Voilà!
Ultimately, CleverShuttle is working towards the larger goal making cities more sustainable, efficient and livable by improving mobility and reducing the use of private cars. To find out more about the platform and what sets it apart, we spoke with CleverShuttle co-founder and CEO Bruno Ginnuth.
How did CleverShuttle get its start? What was the initial inspiration?
CleverShuttle came into existence back in 2014. Me and my high school friends Jan and Slava had the idea for the service shortly before. When Jan worked for German state railway Deutsche Bahn, he often found himself taking a cab from the train station into the city – at the same time as everyone else that had arrived with this train. To pool these requests in a simple, sustainable and smart way was the initial inspiration for developing the concept. In 2016, we launched our first service in Munich. CleverShuttle has grown ever since.
What sets CleverShuttle apart and how does it differ from other ride pooling or sharing platforms, such as Uber?
There are several fundamental differences between CleverShuttle and near-competitors like Uber. CleverShuttle does not simply pool rides via an algorithm to get you from point A to point B in large German cities. When you book a seat in one of our shuttles, you are guaranteed a fixed price at about half the taxi price. A professionally trained driver, who we employ 100% ourselves, will then come to pick you up in a sustainable vehicle. That is a battery or hydrogen electric car, driven by a professional, to get you from your desired location, not from a predefined stop, to your exact destination. For half the taxi price, no questions asked. Of course, you might have a detour of about 30%, the App will let you know beforehand. Our drivers are paid by the hour, not by successful driving jobs.
Where are you currently located? Any plans for expansion?
At the moment, we are operating in the seven largest German cities. The next city you can expect to see CleverShuttle will be Kiel, on the German Baltic Sea coast. While we indeed think about expanding our service to Austria and Switzerland, local regulations make it hard to say exactly, where we will be next.
How much does an average journey with CleverShuttle cost?
Since we’re operating in cities of many different sizes, it is hard to define “average.” In Leipzig for example, average urban travel distances differ widely from distances in Berlin. Normally you will pay between 6 and 12 Euros for your seat in the shuttle. Reserving more seats will increase the price slightly – but it will not increase with traveltime or detour distance. It will remain the same price you see in-app before you enter the shuttle. In the end, you will have paid 50-60% less than you would have paid taking a cab for that ride.
What has the public response been like? Are people reluctant to share rides or eager to try the platform?
The response has been very good in every city. People like the low price and the warm feeling of doing something good for the planet. Customers are very welcoming toward sharing their car with others. Many try the app for the first time – natural curiosity makes for a good conversation starter.
How did you source your funding as a startup? Which VCs or companies have invested in CleverShuttle?
Several different investors have held shares in the past years. Today, we are supported in large part by Deutsche Bahn. They currently hold 80% of the company.
How many users do you currently have?
In December, we welcomed our millionth customer on board a CleverShuttle. Now, there are over 350,000 people using CleverShuttle every month.
How do you envision urban mobility changing in the coming years?
We are convinced that for cities to thrive, privately owned and driven vehicles can no longer make up most of urban traffic. Exploring a variety of means of transportation, such as pooling people going the same way, is key for growing cities to remain livable.