Quite often, visitors to Vancouver are flabbergasted when they discover the beautiful west coast city is lacking one very popular modern-day convenience: “How does Vancouver not have Uber?” they say, staring aghast at the unresponsive app on their smartphones. “You mean I have to get a taxi?”
Vancouver residents are well aware of the city’s many alternative ridesharing options: Car 2 Go, Evo, and ZipCar are just a few. Now, two new Vancouver-based tech companies are offering innovative solutions to car-related challenges while simultaneously reducing transportation costs and environmental impact.
Going the distance: Flok
Flok, co-founded by Vancouver-based entrepreneurs Clio de la Llave and Nadine Robinson, is North America’s first long-distance ridesharing platform built specifically for events. The concept is pretty straightforward: attendees travelling to an event who have extra seats in their car can open the Flok app and connect instantly with locals who are looking for a ride to the same event. Unlike other ridesharing platforms such as Uber or Lyft, the driver doesn’t make a profit. Instead, each passenger contributes to the total cost of travel, bringing everyone’s costs down.
“The economics of the newer generation of North Americans dictates a major shift from ownership to sharing.”
As is the case with many tech startups, de la Llave said that Flok was born out of frustration: “My co-founder Nadine and I went to visit her parents in Revelstoke for a weekend, and neither of us had a car,” she explains. “We flew to Kelowna and then had to rent a car for the entire weekend. On our drive back to Kelowna, we realized our little weekend getaway cost us close to $1,000. That was the first inception of Flok, and now it has shifted slightly to become an event-focused product.”
The app, which is available in iOS, will be launching in Android later this year, includes user profiles, rating systems, and in-app messaging. Flok has also created a number of ridesharing communities for specific events this summer, including the recent Rockin River Music Festival and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Currently in beta phase, the future looks bright for Flok. “We have been extremely fortunate to find mentors and investors that understood the opportunity of long-distance ridesharing at a very early stage,” said de la Llave. “Many of our current advisors and investors are local Vancouverites, but we’re thrilled to also have support from Ontario and California as well.”
The traffic-buster: LOOPShare
LOOPShare (formerly Saturna Green) is a ridesharing platform for electronic scooters that was founded in 2010 by Vancouver entrepreneur Anwar Sukkarie, who previously founded the GPS fleet tracking company Webtech Wireless.
Think of LOOPShare as the Tesla of scooters, and then some. Aside from the environmental advantages of a ridesharing platform for battery-powered scooters, commuters will be cutting down on traffic and freeing up parking space by choosing the more compact, two-wheel vehicle over a car.
“I was in São Paulo, in the congested streets, in heavy traffic jams. I would see all these motorcycles zooming by, all these small occupancy vehicles moving so freely,” Sukkarie said. “It immediately dawned on me that an electric scooter could be a real answer to relieving congestion, enhancing commuter efficiency, and reducing pollution.”
LOOPShare recently went public on the TSX V (LUP) and is in the final stages of development before the first fleet will be launched in Vancouver, scheduled for springtime 2017. It will then roll out in London and Beirut.
“Vancouver will be the first city to have LOOPShare, but it won’t be our main market,” Anwar explains. “Cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Barcelona will be bigger markets. We are in discussion with potential partners in South Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the US, and Canada.”
Much like Flok co-founders de la Llave and Robinson, Sukkarie recognizes the importance of sustainability and how it is influencing consumer behaviour.
“The economics of the newer generation of North Americans dictates a major shift from ownership to sharing. This generation, they’re not very attached to things. They are mobile – they are more attached to the service something provides,” said Sukkarie. “They are tech-savvy, but they don’t have a huge disposable income. More young people have two or three jobs. Even in commuting, they don’t want to own a big car. There’s insurance, parking – it’s a headache.”
Sukkarie said that there’s also the obvious issue of efficiency. “You want to go from A to B, but you don’t want to spend an hour and a half in traffic, and of course there is our carbon footprint. We are going to help Vancouver become the greenest in the world by 2020.”