Public transport is broken outside of big cities in many parts of Europe and the UK. It's expensive, unreliable and not available when people need it. Too often, passengers are left with two choices - car ownership or not going to work.
One in four bus services in the UK were axed between 2012 and 2022, and the ongoing cost of living crisis is compounding the issue, with 68% of low earners concerned that cuts and rising costs will stop them being able to work.
Uk startup RideTandem is filling the gap, delivering services in partnership with local, licensed, often family-run, minibus and coach companies.
Today the company announced that it has raised £2.3 million in new funding in a round led by Blackfinch Ventures. I spoke to co-founder and CEO Alex Shapland-Howes to find out more.
He explained that the business started "when we met these dads who were trying to get to work but couldn't because there was physically no way for them to get to where the jobs were."
Shapland-Howes visited community centres and job centres, talking to people about how they would get to work every day.
"I met so many people who were getting cabs to work every day. This included a cleaner spending her entire first hour's wage just to get to work and the last hour to get home."
The company originally started with a shared taxi service but over time learnt that "the volumes of people travelling were not just two threes and fours, they were often huge numbers. Some of our services have large double-decker buses that are pretty full."
With a B2B2C approach, the company sells services to businesses struggling to recruit people because people can't get to where those jobs are.
"If you have a warehouse or factory, a distribution centre, or a business park outside a town centre, the chances are you're experiencing this problem.
We can also see if a particular employer is having difficulty recruiting. And so if they've got tons of job ads out at the moment, then that may mean they're having difficulty recruiting due to a lack of transport."
Clients include Lidl, Next, DPD, and Royal Mail.
Increased demand due to the cost of living crisis
RideTandem originally serviced blue-collar workers but has seen a growth in demand among white-collar people "who literally can't afford to get to work any other way."
Reduced carbon emissions
Since the company's 2019 launch, passengers on RideTandem services have earned more than £40 million in new wages from jobs they otherwise wouldn't have been able to access.
There's also a huge environmental benefit in helping move people from their own car into a shared mode of transport.
Trips on RideTandem services have helped to avoid more than 8,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions to date – the average RideTandem vehicle carries more than 20 passengers, compared to 1.14 for the average commuter car, and operates at more than 70 per cent capacity.
This will become hugely compelling for companies looking to reduce their Scope 3 carbon emissions.
Further, services like RideTandem are, by default, collecting a massive pool of data that, in the future — in the right political environment — could be used to agitate for and plan new public transport service routes.
The company's core plan is to continue with UK expansion and is also launching its first intentional market in Germany in the coming months.
FirstMonday VC and Rainmaking Impact invested alongside Blackfinch Ventures in this round, as well as previous backers — Tandem has raised £3.7 million previously — 1818 Venture Capital, Ascension, and Low Carbon Innovation Fund. Angel investors include Softbank Vision Fund's first female partner and founders of AllPlants and OLIO.