Shared transportation in Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation by inhabitants, is a thriving enterprise, at the least when achieved the traditional method: offline.
With thousands and thousands of Nigerians utilizing danfo minibuses and okadas to commute to their varied workplaces and locations, mobility startups have sought to digitize the market. Nevertheless, most have discovered little luck, particularly these within the two-wheeler mobility area.
Whereas most mobility tech within the nation is centred round two-wheelers and car-hailing, there’s been hardly any deliberate disruption within the bus-sharing and mass transit area.
Shuttlers, a “tech-enabled scheduled bus sharing” firm, is itching to alter that. After years of bootstrapping, the corporate has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from a number of traders to blitz scale inside and out of doors Nigeria.
Chicago and Africa-focused funding agency VestedWorld led the spherical. Fintech unicorn Interswitch, Africa-focused VCs Rising Tide Africa, Launch Africa, EchoVC, Consonance Funding, CcHub Syndicate, CMC 21 & Alsa, ShEquity, Five35, Sakore and Nikky Taurus additionally participated within the spherical.
CEO Damilola Olokesusi based Shuttlers in 2016 to handle the difficulty of inefficient transportation prices in Nigeria’s most famous city metropolis, Lagos. By way of its ridesharing platform, Shuttlers supplies corporations with higher mobility choices for his or her staff.
However when Shuttlers launched in 2017, it didn’t have a purposeful cellular utility. As a substitute, the corporate ran an unconventional on-line mannequin utilizing Slack, e mail and WhatsApp to speak with its prospects.
But, that was sufficient to onboard its first set of enterprise purchasers. Tech expertise unicorn Andela was Shuttlers’ first B2B2C shopper, Olokesusi advised FiratNews over a name.
The B2B2C plan is considered one of three foremost choices Shuttlers suppliers; right here, corporations break up fee of transport fares with their staff whichever method they see match. The others embody B2B, the place enterprise purchasers pay the entire fares of their staff and B2C, the place particular person prospects pay fares themselves.
“Our mission is to remodel the way in which individuals commute around the globe by constructing a worldwide accomplice community and connecting communities of shuttlers like we’re presently doing in Lagos, Nigeria,” Olokesusi mentioned in an announcement.
Following a revamp in 2019, Shuttlers now affords a completely purposeful app that permits cellular professionals on its three plans to guide rides. By way of the platform, commuters can guide a seat on one of many buses that goes alongside predetermined and scheduled routes.
In response to the corporate, commuters pay 80% much less when utilizing its service as a substitute of different ride-hailing companies “with out surges and peak-period pricing.”
A few of its different options embody stay bus monitoring, optimum routing primarily based on visitors and digital funds, the corporate mentioned. It additionally has a subscription characteristic the place commuters can schedule rides upfront over a time period.
Regardless of elevating simply ₦3 million (~$6,000) from family and friends and grants since 2016, Shuttlers’ development has been staggering. The corporate claims to have over 10,000 customers throughout its cellular app and web site customers.
Greater than 100 unbranded and branded buses are on its platform, ploughing over 30 routes in Lagos with over 300 bus stops. In complete, they’ve recorded greater than 2 million journeys for the reason that firm’s inception.
Olokesusi added that her firm sells greater than 6,000 bus tickets every day, which implies over 3,000 individuals take two-way journeys every day.
Having achieved this a lot with so little, why is the corporate elevating a seed spherical now? For one, it appears the corporate needs to go head-to-head with VC-backed competitors; its funding is coming at a time when newer entrants are gaining floor throughout the nation, most notably from Toronto and Lagos-based Plentywaka.
The Techstars-backed firm is actively fueling its growth throughout Nigeria and Ghana having raised greater than $1.5 million in funding, cash additionally used to accumulate an identical participant in Ghana.
Nevertheless, Olokesusi says traders’ curiosity within the firm was the primary cause behind the corporate’s first enterprise capital consumption.
“We weren’t actively in search of traders; nevertheless, there may be now extra consideration within the shared mobility trade due to corporations like SWVL. Now, traders have an interest on this and suppose native mobility performs could be worthwhile options,” Olokesusi mentioned.
“We simply made the fitting resolution for the corporate at this explicit proper time so we are able to prepare for the chance that occurs after. Now we’re able to take over the African market, beginning with Nigeria and West African markets within the subsequent couple of months.”
The corporate has begun operations in Nigeria’s capital metropolis Abuja, however Olokesusi doesn’t say which different cities inside and out of doors Nigeria Shuttlers will increase to subsequent.
In an identical practice of thought, Nneka Eze, the managing director at lead investor VestedWorld, mentioned her agency believes the “funding will assist Shuttlers prolong its providing to adjoining markets and assist resolve inefficiencies within the transportation sector throughout areas in Africa.”
Olokesusi is without doubt one of the few feminine founders on the continent to have raised a major spherical from VCs this 12 months. However her journey to Shuttlers was unintended, as she tells me how working in an oil and gasoline agency took the entrance seat of the place she needed to work after finding out chemical engineering at college.
The founder was born in Lagos however grew up in Ibadan, a neighbouring metropolis with a much less chaotic transportation system than Lagos. Years after returning to Nigeria’s business metropolis, Olokesusi would encounter the notorious and troubling technique of reserving bus seats in public buses (danfos), which she says “troubled” her, narrating her expertise on this interview.
“There have been fewer points of individuals operating after buses in Ibadan. In Lagos, I keep in mind after I was strolling to a bus cease for the primary time, I used to be truly shocked how individuals have been operating very quick to get seats. That was my first interplay utilizing danfo buses in Lagos, however like everybody, I acquired used to it.”
The CEO mentioned she attended some tech conferences and meetups that opened her thoughts to the chances of beginning a tech firm to resolve issues round her. Nevertheless, it wasn’t till her internship and her first place of business following commencement that the concept for Shuttlers began to take form.
She skilled two contrasts in each workplaces. Her first employer had buses to move Olokesusi and her colleagues from residence to work and vice versa. In the meantime, on the second, she made use of danfos as soon as once more.
“What broke the camels again was my first time leaving the nation in 2014, experiencing what it meant to stay in a metropolis with sensible transportation. By the point I got here again to Nigeria, I didn’t need to return to utilizing public transportation,” she mentioned.
Upon her return, Olokesusi recreated the workers bus mannequin. She felt the mannequin may exchange danfos and private vehicles — the first-choice choices professionals use to get to work. With Shuttlers, she additionally needed to democratize the mannequin and make it accessible to different customers whose corporations may not afford such companies.
5 years in, Shuttlers shouldn’t be solely worthwhile whereas elevating cash and making growth plans; additionally it is involved about fostering its environmental impression.
The latter is obvious in a current survey Shuttlers not too long ago carried out the place virtually 30% of its every day commuters personal vehicles. In essence, the corporate, in its little method, is lowering the quantity of carbon dioxide that these commuters would have in any other case emitted in the event that they used their vehicles every day.
“Each single time that our buses are on the highway, we’re lowering the variety of vehicles on the highway. We’re additionally optimizing routes and lowering the variety of buses and emissions on the highway,” mentioned the founder and CEO. “As we proceed, we’ll be very intentional in recording and calculating how a lot gasoline emissions we’re lowering per route and every day, perhaps additionally launch experiences on how we’re impacting the atmosphere positively.”