Liftshare.com: a case of business disruption

Liftshare.com was born 15 years ago, indeed 2 weeks before Google, and now is the UK’s largest car-sharing network. This system matches individuals with similar journeys so they can travel better together – saving money, cutting their carbon footprint and having fun.

Over 600,000 individuals have joined the network since it launched, and every day around 40,000 fewer car trips are taken off the UK’s roads by its members. Though Liftshare.com is completely free to use, the company funds itself by helping businesses and communities set up their own online journey-matching tools to encourage local car-sharing and more sustainable mobility.

More recently, Liftshare, based in Norwich (UK), has set a startup within the company to explore new business models and disrupt the ride-sharing sector. We interviewed Jemma Pennick (@Jem_Pennick), Liftshare Marketing Manager and responsible for this new venture.

Question. What was your background before joining Liftshare? 
Answer. I gained a degree in business management from the UEA, I then went to Japan through the JET program and lived/worked there teaching English. From there I went to Australia for a few years, working in a small serviced office as their sales and marketing manager. On my return to the UK I joined an all service marketing agency, where I worked for nearly 7 years as Senior Account Manager and everything else! Then I came to Liftshare.

Q. Liftshare has been around for more than 15 years and now you have created an start-up to disrupt the company… What?
A. It’s really exciting I’ve literally been tasked to run a business within Liftshare designed to wipe out Liftshare as it currently exists. It was decided that rather than waiting for the competition, we’d do it ourselves! As a 15 year old company technology has moved on hugely, as has the digital world and the sharing economy has suddenly taken off – we can’t compete as effectively within the public marketplace as we want to with our existing systems, so we’re starting over, building bigger and better for our users and making sure we retain our position as the UK’s largest car-sharing network.

Q. What is this startup aim to deliver? What is coming in terms of new products? 
A. The aim of the startup is simply to disrupt our business, ensuring we stay ahead and deliver the best possible service and solution to members, so we can achieve our mission of ensuring that everyone has someone to share a car with.  With regard to new products you can expect to see a mobile app as the first thing, but beyond this real time car-sharing will become increasingly important so watch this space!

Q. What is Liftshare competitive advantage in the ride sharing marketplace? Is venture capital investment a requirement to compete in this sector? 
A. We have so many, it’s hard to give you just one! But if I have to choose I believe it’s the Liftshare team. With our joint vision, skill and expertise in this sector we’re hard to compete with, even those competitors with millions of venture capital investment  are finding us a much tougher competitor than they ever expected! And we’re getting stronger by the day, particularly with the new disruption in our own business.

Q. Is car-sharing a real transport alternative like the train, bus, etc.? 
A. Definitely! Not only is it cheaper and better for the environment, but it’s fun and sociable too. The biggest challenge we face is changing individuals behavior so they see it as a good alternative, but with hundreds of thousands of journeys registered on the system already and an 83% chance of a match on any journey, as the sharing economy grows and people become more accustomed to sharing it will simply grow and get better and better.

Q. Is lift-sharing safe? What are the legal implications of car-sharing? 
A. Liftsharing is as safe as anything else. As long as you are sensible, it’s a perfectly good travel option. We’ve been going for 15 years and we’ve never had anything bad reported, so…

Q. How do you see the world in 5 years?
A. The future’s all about collaboration! People will be less materialistic and more practical. Car-sharing will be a natural solution for travel and you will be able to find matches in real time as and when you need them, and everyone will know the Liftshare.com name!

Discover more about Liftshare on this video: