Sir Richard Branson backs Sidecar’s ‘innovative’ ride-sharing service

Sidecar has secured a $15 million [£9.25 million] investment in its peer-to-peer car sharing service that now counts Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson among its pool of investors.

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The investment round will help the company build upon its shared rides service and to expand further across the US with funding coming from existing investors Avalon Investors and Union Square Ventures as well as Branson.

“I like companies that are innovative, offer exciting customer experiences and make the world better. Transportation has been ripe for disruption for decades. An entrepreneurial company like Sidecar can take on the big guys with innovation and big ideas, not just big bank accounts,” Branson told Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul.

Investors have now plunged a total of $35 million [£21.6 million] into Sidecar, which still looks miniscule compared to Uber’s estimated valuation of $18.2 billion [£11.2 bilion] and Lyft, another in the same space, which is valued at $700 million [£431 million].

Sidecar’s service differs to both of those two firms in that it allows users to pick a specific driver as opposed to being assigned the one nearest by, as is the case with both Uber and Lyft.

Ride sharing was added to Sidecar in May and is designed to connect users with those nearby in order to allow travellers to share the fare when travelling in the same direction. Its latest blog post revealed that 13,000 people requested the service in San Francisco during its first month and it predicts that it will reach 500,000 rides in its first year.

Uber and Lyft both announced similar ride sharing services last month though this has been met with a stern reaction from California’s authorities that have warned all three firms that the carpooling feature is illegal under state law.

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There’s no indication from any of the three as to how they may overcome this and for now it looks as though they will carry on offering the car-sharing service regardless.