Sidecar Growth Strategy – What Growth Hacks Can You Use?
Defining the prevailing zeitgeist at any moment in time can be a powerful but difficult growth hack, but San Francisco-based Sidecar, a major competitor with Uber in the sector of peer-to-peer ride sharing seems to be a good market fit for the rapidly emerging Sharing Economy.
In the months following its January 2012 launch in San Francisco, the company experienced 60% month-over-month growth and secured impressive funding starting with $20 million in seed money.
Like Uber, SideCar opted for a “proof is in the pudding” approach to demonstrating its value at the influential SXSW tech conference in Austin, Texas from March 8-17, 2013. All rides during the conference were free, and drivers were paid as brand ambassadors.
SXSW allowed the company the perfect venue to both test elastic demand in a real world setting and capture the attention of the tech press. Approximately 30,000 registered attendees came to Austin for the conference, many bringing family with them, while additional thousands flocked to the film and music portion of the festival. All of those people needed to get around and SideCar offered them both transportation and the coveted “gee whiz” experience.
Sidecar uses a smartphone app to match everyday drivers with clients in need of a ride. The fees are shared by the driver and Sidecar. Costs average 10% less than comparable taxi fares with a much higher perceived sense of availability, reliability, and safety. In San Francisco, the company found that its heaviest repeat customers were 20-something women.
Like any company with a solid growth strategy, SideCar tests its data in the cities where it launches. Currently the service is available in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Austin, Boston, Brooklyn, Washington D.C., Charlotte, Chicago, San Diego, Long Beach, and Oakland.
In an attempt to understand and achieve market fit, Sidecar is catering to a marked decline in car ownership among 20-somethings. For this age group, driving presents problems at multiple levels, starting with the “don’t text and drive” conundrum.
The 18-24 age bracket of smartphone owners sends and receives more than 4,000 text messages per month, a decidedly unsafe and typically illegal activity behind the wheel. The traditional idea has been that car ownership equates with freedom.
For this age group, however, real freedom is simply having ready access to transportation that meets their needs. The fact that Sidecar is smartphone based further caters to this ethos since the basic assumption is that the smartphone is the central hub of activity and means of organization and connection for the current crop of twenty-somethings.
Within this age bracket, the sharing economy has gained considerable traction as evidence by the success of other startups with a similar philosophical bent like AirBnB. With services like Sidecar, all parties benefit — riders and drivers.
The latest iteration of the Sidecar app lets user tailor their rides by type of vehicle type, driver, and price as well as proximity to their current location. As proof of the traction of the sharing concept, during its first summer in operation, Sidecar snapped up an addition $10 million in funding.
Sidecar also stays focused on the user experience. People who have taken rides with Sidecar drivers said they felt they were being driven by a friend — to the point that they weren’t upset about missed turns or other benign “mistakes.”
They sat up front, had a nice chat with the driver, and left the car smiling. That kind of goodwill generates the Holy Grail of growth hacking, word of mouth from satisfied customers.