Shebah’s CEO says the purpose of the ridesharing platform is to ‘monetise the labour of women’, as the company secures $675k in crowdfunding
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Shebah, the Aussie ridesharing company for women, recently held its second crowdfunding campaign, aiming to reach a minimum of $500,000.
When the campaign closed, the company surpassed its minimum goal, securing more than $675,000.
This latest funding round comes after Shebah received $3m in crowdfunding in March, breaking the crowdfunding record previously held by neobank Xinja at $2.6m. During its first launch, the company had 95 per cent women investors.
CEO Georgina McEncroe told Business Insider Australia this second crowdfunding raise gave Shebah drivers an opportunity to be a part of the company if they had missed out on the first round.
“In the first round, we’d always wanted to make our drivers shareholders because it was very important to us,” she said.
“We wanted our drivers to stay with us – they really built this company up. We started with very little in the way of capital and it was the drivers who made their own t-shirts and walked to the local schools and put things in newsletters. They are really passionate about it and I really wanted them to have the option of becoming a shareholder.
“When we did the first raise, we had all these new drivers and I didn’t want them to miss out. A lot of people had missed out on the first raise which I just couldn’t believe given I felt like we banged on about it so much.”
McEncroe said the money will be used to develop the platform’s technology, as well as for staff and marketing.
“A lot of our technology is about making the onboarding of drivers easier [and] refining the driver portal and that all comes back to meeting the supply and demand,” she said.
Shebah launched in Australia in 2017 with a mission to provide “a safe transport option to women and children.” Two years later it had broken the record for the most amount of money crowdfunded.
The company operates in all major cities as well as regional areas including Bendigo, Ballarat, Noosa, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Byron Bay, Toowoomba, Cairns, Barossa, Ipswich, Bundaberg and Margaret River.
McEncroe said it has “several thousand” drivers – a lot of whom are women over 40 – and more than 200,000 riders with the app.
McEncroe said the school-age group is a big market for Shebah as well as families who need car seats, girls using it to get to sports events early in the morning, or young women going out partying on a Saturday night.
But at its heart, McEncroe says, Shebah’s mission is to support women.
“That’s what the app has always been to do, it’s been to monetise the labour of women and that’s the mission and we’re executing on it,” McEncroe said.
Another major priority for Shebah is safety. Its all-women driver workforce must have a Working with Children Check, and McEnroe said they are checked by state managers to ensure they are who they say they are.
“Every driver that is on-boarded onto the platform meets with a regional leader, so we know who that person is,” McEncroe said. “Then you get a face on the app and we can see who our passengers are. So you can’t accidentally pick up the wrong passenger. You can’t accidentally get into the wrong car.”
There have been a number of serious crimes committed involving rideshare drivers. In 2018, an Uber driver was charged with the rape of a 17-year-old in Bondi, the ABC reported. In 2019, a Didi driver pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a passenger in China, according to The Straits Times.
Earlier this month, Uber released its first safety report, noting that it had 3,045 sexual-assault reports in the US in 2018.
McEncroe said Shebah has “never seen a single incident of a woman raping another woman in a car.”
“We’ve never seen an incident of stalking, of sexual harassment, of asking inappropriate questions,” she said.
“If you take out sexual assault as a problem facing your passengers and your drivers, you’re really looking at very different issues and we’re very quick to remove anyone who’s disrespectful to anyone.”
The ridesharing market in Australia is dotted with companies including Uber, Ola and Didi – all of which are vying for your dollars.
But one feature that makes Shebah stand out, McEncroe said, is its ‘customise my ride’ feature, which centres around providing car seats for passengers with children.
“It is about multiple car seats – rear-facing, forward-facing, selecting boosters and that sort of thing,” McEncroe said.
While you can request a taxi with a car seat, fellow ridesharing company Uber doesn’t have the car-seat option available on its app in Australia, as Lifehacker reported.
Lifehacker further noted that, “In most states and territories, it is legal for children over the age of one to wear a seatbelt while travelling in a taxi – you don’t even need a booster seat.” That is, unless you don’t want to risk the safety of a child who may not be old enough to use a standard seatbelt.
“More families, for example, are using Shebah to take their baby home from hospital on the couple of days after it’s been born,” McEncroe said. “So mum and dad can sit in the backseat and admire their beautiful baby and not worry about that horror day or having their first fight over the installation of the car seat.
“It’s not something I’d even thought about when I built Shebah but that’s a problem we’re solving that is really reducing stress on the very first day you bring your baby home from the hospital.”
Another key feature on Shebah is its preferred driver option that lets you nominate a certain driver you may like, instead of just getting the one closest to you.
“We were the first to roll out the preferred driver option, so our drivers can really work their own business in the way that they like and it’s worth establishing their own rapport with their own passengers,” McEnroe said.
“So, if they’re going to be self-employed contractors, they’ve got to have some benefit to maximising those relationships.”
She added that it’s a way to “reward drivers who’ve built up a wonderful rapport with a particular family or individual.”
McEncroe further explained that Shebah is a safer ridesharing option that meets the “needs of people who’ve essentially been overlooked and taken for granted.”
She mentioned how the company’s strengths are in servicing school children and the aged care sector – areas it argues will make the business sustainable into the future.
“The more we look to cities of the future, people don’t want to be driving their cars around and they want to be able to access a safe car,” she said.
“It came to me in a dream,” McEncroe said.
She had initially called the service ‘Mum’s Taxi’ but her friends weren’t too keen on it. “My friends in marketing just said that is the worst name ever – you have to get rid of it,” McEncroe explained. Her friends added that it would be hard to get teenagers into the cars with a name like that.
The name Shebah is based on the Queen of Sheba, a wealthy woman mentioned in the Bible who questioned King Solomon She was someone McEnroe had studied while she doing Theology at university.
“She challenged the wisdom of King Solomon,” McEncroe explained. “She was the original disruptor. I just think of her as pretty rockin’ and I love the way she’s depicted in lots of early art forms.”
The name may have initially come from a dream but that’s not the only iteration of the Queen of Sheba that McEnroe derived the name from.
McEncroe also takes the name from the expression, “Who do you think you are, The Queen of Sheba”? To that, McEnroe said, “Yeah, I do.”
In the future, Shebah has plans to launch a business option and to expand into other countries. It currently has a licence to operate in New Zealand, McEnroe confirmed.
It’s also looking forward to its series A funding round in 2020.