DUBAI: On a rainy night in Bangalore, India, Firdosh Sheikh was about to get into a car to go to the airport when the driver asked if she was canceling the trip. He told her he would always drive her to her destination for less than the quoted fare. The problem? He wanted to be paid directly rather than giving 50% of the commission to the ridesharing app.
This taxi ride was like a flash, a Eureka moment. And the concept of Drife.io was born, a blockchain-based startup that put the power back in the hands of drivers.
“I had done over 5,000 rides and often wondered about the difficulties of the drivers, but tonight was a turning point,” said Sheikh, founder and CEO of Drife, a decentralized ride-sharing platform.
“Commuting was my only mode of transportation; like many women, I was terrified of public transport. This got me thinking about the other side of the story: how do companies treat drivers? How can we make the system fairer, safer and more efficient for everyone? she wondered.
Two and a half years later, Drife.io has grown into a company with 4,000 registered drivers and over 20,000 active drivers using its app. The startup is on track to meet goals of 12,000 drivers and half a million drivers by the end of June. It works with a subscription model: a driver pays between $50 and $70 per month to become a member and receives 100% commission on any ride. A passenger pays for each ride taken, just like regular ridesharing apps.
“The biggest challenge is taking on these industry giants, like Uber,” she said. “At first, we struggled a lot before going live. But now is the perfect time for a blockchain-based ridesharing app, and we’ve grown rapidly.
According to data from Bengaluru-based research firm Mordor Intelligence, the global carpooling market was valued at $21.42 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $61.24 billion by 2026, registering a growth rate annual compound of 17.32% between 2021 and 2026.
Drife.io also has a unique look that sets it apart. This Uber-like app accepts cryptocurrency as payment and already has its own token: Drife. When the concept for the startup was in its infancy, Sheikh sought funding from venture capitalists in India. But despite the time and money spent on the app’s architecture, the feedback was unanimous: having a blockchain-based ridesharing app is a great idea, but will the execution work?
“People said the concept looked great on paper, but the implementation seemed too ambitious,” said Sheikh, who has a background in finance. “Our problem was to design a blockchain-based app that would be easy for riders and drivers to use. That’s how I created my token and raised almost $3 million in funding.
The crypto element appealed to venture capitalists, who gave the startup a boost with an August 2021 fundraising of $2.7 million. The funds were spent on marketing the business, designing a user-friendly app, and hiring a team. In November, she had launched a beta version that her friends and family had tested.
Sheikh’s long-term plans include expanding to 10 cities by the end of this year, starting with the Middle East. To that end, the startup managed to hire Daniel Mangabeira Dantas, former head of Latin America policy at Uber and a 20-year veteran in the ride-sharing industry, to serve as Drife’s new strategic investor and policy adviser. guiding the company to the world. expansion.
Saudi Arabia is an exciting and fast-moving place, and as the largest market in the GCC, it’s definitely on our radar.
Firdosh Sheikh, founder of Drife
Sheikh moved to Dubai in early 2022 and is actively talking to partners to launch into the Gulf Cooperation Council first, including across the United Arab Emirates and later expand into Saudi Arabia.
“We can operate from anywhere in the world, and we created the technology, so we own it,” she said.
“We have started talking to partners to launch in Dubai and are currently reviewing Road and Traffic Authority compliance and licensing requirements. The main reason we registered in Dubai is that it is now the region’s crypto and blockchain hub.
She confirmed that Drife.io has moved its technology and IT operations from India to Dubai for regional expansion. “We are actively seeking partners in Saudi Arabia who would like to participate in Drife’s operations,” Sheikh said. “Saudi Arabia is an exciting and rapidly changing place, and as the largest market in the GCC, it is definitely on our radar.”
Put the wheels in motion
Sheikh’s attention to detail in the app has made it popular in major Indian cities in a relatively short period of time. Features do not include any multipliers or surcharges applied during peak hours. Additionally, the app does not assign a specific driver, leaving the driver free to choose based on reviews and a list of nearby cars.
Drivers who are vetted and part of a subscription model retain the full commission of a ride. Additionally, the company will accept cryptocurrency payments starting in June.
“We need blockchain because it stands for transparency and fairness,” Sheikh said. “It’s a fair calculation, so we can’t manipulate the system with surcharges or commission changes. We don’t profit beyond the drivers’ subscriptions, allowing them to be 100% owners. »
It’s a disruptive model in a competitive mobility space, but it’s simple, and it works.
Drife.io has already captured the imagination of a few regional venture capitalists, and the company is now aiming for a seed round in June to expand globally. The road to founding the company hasn’t been easy, but Sheikh is riding the momentum as cryptocurrency goes mainstream around the world.
“I always struggle to walk into a boardroom as a young founder. They don’t trust a woman driving in India, let alone a woman running a mobility startup,” said Sheikh: “There are very few women in this space. But I always tell myself that I can have a number of limitations, but not my gender. It’s a great concept and we’re proving it, one ride at a time.” .