Shit’s getting real in the ridesharing space right now, with Uber full-on attacking Lyft, Lyft possibly doing samesies, and everyone announcing ride-pooling at the same damn time (not to mention companies like Hitch and Bandwagon, who exist solely for carpooling). When your business model is to connect passengers with drivers, or riders with riders, or riders with riders with drivers, achieving mass scale through strong distribution is vital. On the heels of both Uber and Hailo opening up their APIs, I wanted to note the strong role strategic partnerships are playing in this heated up space.
Uber launched in the Bay Area by sponsoring major tech and startup events, offering free rides to attendees to get the product in the hands of influencers and early adopters. Then it joined Google Maps (one of the most popular apps of all time) by integrating into its interface. Part of its ongoing PR stunt efforts, Uber regularly pairs up with brands to offer whimsical short-term services to users, such as: ice cream, Benefit Cosmetics on Valentine’s Day, Christmas trees care of Home Depot, free rides home from local restaurants, even a soccer viewing party with an MLS star.
Hailo, with well over $70mm in funding but minimal success in the States, partnered with Citymapper, one of the faster-growing transit apps. This deal is quite similar to Uber and Google Maps, though not in scale. It also partners with local properties like film festivals and baseball teams.
Lyft has taken a similar local events approach while also seeking sponsorships and distribution deals with partners who fall in line with its fun, personal branding. There’s the music festival in SF, RAW events nationwide, and a referral program in conjunction with Lovely. Lyft also seeks out partnerships that benefit its drivers, such as Freelancers Union and AnyPerk.
Bandwagon seems to place strong focus on setting up its HOP Lanes (High Occupancy Passenger) at key travel locations, hooking up riders based on similar routes and destinations. They made a big splash at CES this year and are a fixture at LaGuardia Airport. Furthermore, Bandwagon is clearly on the hunt for distribution partners in the rideshare and transit app space, teaming up with both RideScout and Carma as well as Hailo.
It’s clear that partnerships are being utilized as points of differentiation for ridesharing tech services to achieve various objectives: ongoing distribution, brand awareness, short-term incentives, and employee relations.