Quebec City-based ridesharing community Kangaride has launched across Canada after grossing $800,000 dollars last year.
They also pitched to the Dragons' Den investors during the CBC show’s latest episode Monday night. Cofounders Marc Vachon and Edith Bisson asked for $100,000 for 10 per cent, and had all five dragons clamoring for a stake in their business. They settled on giving eight per cent of the company to Bruce Croxon, the extremely wealthy former CEO of LavaLife.
In what was a dramatic finish to the seventh season the pair struck a deal that would eventually fall through. “We were ready to give him that much equity because he is Bruce Croxon,” Vachon told Techvibes. “We could have easily got a loan from the bank but that’s not interesting for us, we wanted smart money instead.”
Unfortunately Croxon couldn’t offer them the kind of mentor-mentee time commitment they were looking for. Regardless of the outcome Vachon said he has immense respect for the dragon.
Kangaride likely isn’t too worried though, especially after their impressive revenue numbers last year (notorious dragon Kevin O’Leary’s his face clearly lit up when they mentioned this on the show).
The cooperative transportation service has “reintroduced ridesharing as a safe, economical and friendly way to travel”. Using a community of drivers and passengers the startup emphasizes intercity travel. Bookings can be made online or by telephone and a customer service centre is open seven days a week. With an emphasis on security, the company validates its drivers' licenses with authorities. Drivers and passengers pay a yearly $7.50 membership fee while the company takes $5 from every successful trip.
The last few years have seen an abundance of ridesharing apps and platforms emerge in the Canadian tech landscape, particularly in Quebec City. Another similar startup LiveRides received significant exposure after graduating from the FounderFuel program, but it’s status as a company is unclear now.
For Kangaride things are looking up though. The business boasts 150,000 members, 9,000 rides every week and is expecting an average of 800-1000 new members every week.
Like many startups, this one started in a dorm room as well.
Vachon told the dragons that frequent commutes back to his hometown of Quebec City was costly. Holding out a thumb on the side of the road wasn’t working, “so I stood there waving a twenty-dollar bill and boy did it get people’s attention”, he said. Why not take this online?
“So that’s when I had this idea about creating this community of ridesharing where people could rate each other just like on eBay and also where professional support would be offered,” said Vachon. “From the very beginning I answered the phone from nine to nine everyday and my parents thought I was crazy.”
He also convinced his future fiancé Bisson to quit her job at Bombardier to come on board with him. The current CTO agreed sometime after witnessing Vachon “working on this thing like a crazy maniac in my apartment”.
The company became profitable in its third year, choosing to focus on customer service first. “And that was going to be one of the unique setting propositions of Kangaride,” he said. “We did that from the very beginning and I’m very proud of that because I think it explains our success.”
Up next for the growing company of 25 employees is to build the user base across the country, hence the launch. Most of their success thus far has come from eastern Canada.
Like their beginnings Vachon says the acceleration progress will come naturally. “What I hope in two years is that we’re still going to have the same amount of fun we’re having now,” he said. “We know what we do best and we hope people will talk about it and hopefully the growth will be there.”