Keep your distance, and don’t breathe down other people’s necks. That is what these times are calling for. Easier said than done. Because when you’re in a car with a driver, it’s about to get up close and personal. Two Amsterdam startups recognised this problem, and each came up with an innovative solution that is taking off rapidly: protective shields between driver and passenger. Enter Fixicover and Driver Bubble.
FixiCover keeps passengers and drivers separated
FixiCover is a product of Fixico. The Amsterdam-based startup offers consumers and companies a platform on which they can quickly get their car repaired. “During the pandemic, it has become hard for the ridesharing, car-hailing, taxi, and passenger transportation industry to transport passengers safely,” says Mark van Laar. He is one of the founders of FixiCover, as well as co-founder and COO of Fixico.
“We are on a mission to minimise contamination risks for drivers and their passengers,” says Van Laar. “FixiCover enables drivers to create a safer working environment during these unprecedented times with an easy-to-install sneeze guard.” The cover consists of a 1,5 mm thick, transparent polycarbonate shield to be placed between the front and rear seats of the car.
Staying safe during driving
The shield comes in two sizes, fitting basically all cars. It doesn’t affect driver-passenger communication, hinder AC-airstream flows, and is entirely suitable for contactless payments. Thanks to FixiCover’s close ties to Fixico, drivers can book an appointment with a repair shop online and get their cover installed.
It does not only offer drivers and passengers the opportunity to stay safe during a trip, explains van Laar. It also creates new business for everyone involved: “Drivers could transport passengers safely, body repair shops could fill up their empty workshop with installation appointments, and we would provide the screens, and leverage our software and booking tool to connect supply with demand.”
Driver Bubble gets drivers back on the road
A similar product emerged at another startup from Amsterdam. Driver Bubble has also developed several shields to keep the drivers and passenger(s) from breathing on each other. For instance, their Driver Bubble One wraps around the drivers’ seat, keeping the passenger seat in the front available, yet separated.
“During COVID-19, we saw the number of rides slow and revenue fall in the transportation industry,” says co-founder Steven Blom. “We hoped to prevent an economic disaster for the transportation industry around the world. This resulted in designing and building the Driver Bubble products. They are a series of protective transparent, reliable screens that are currently enabling drivers to get back on the road without feeling isolated from their passengers.”
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Blom has extensive experience in the transportation business. Together with co-founder Otto Ruys, he is also the man behind Taxi Butler, a spin-off from TomTom Taxi. A nifty one-button device for bars, cafes and restaurants to instantly order and track a cab for their guests.
With the hospitality industry all but shut down and taxi trips plummeting, Ruys and Blom quickly figured out a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity. Bonus, says Blom, is that protective shields for drivers will also help reluctant cabbies to go back on the road, thus allowing their original company Taxi Butler to maintain revenue.
Driver bubble looking for funding
Seeing opportunity at the right time has made Driver Bubble surge. They are producing three affordable, universally fitting shields that can be ordered online. Additionally, they are also using their platform to sell other brands’ driver shields, such as Fixico’s. The company is currently experiencing 437 per cent month-over-month growth. Their team of over 30 members makes sure the affordable solution is for sale in over 15 countries all around the world.
To ensure they can keep that growth and expansion going, Driver Bubble is looking for funding, says Blom: “Currently we are the number one player globally in reach and how many different products we sell. We believe that COVID-19, or a variation of it, is here to stay. Eventually, millions of cars need to be outfitted, which will become a billion-dollar industry. We are well-positioned to capitalise on this opportunity, and we welcome investors on this journey.”
FixiCover’s rapid growth and worldwide sales
FixiCover’s shields are available across the world, says Van Laar: “We launched Fixicover in more than ten countries, making sure millions of Uber and taxi users can travel safely in cities ranging from Paris in France to Las Vegas in the USA. It’s very cool to see that in for example the Netherlands, 9 out of 10 taxi’s is driving around with FixiCover.”
An important advantage for FixiCover is that it can leverage a network of over 2000 body repair shops as fitting facilities, which also makes scaling up relatively easy. Van Laar: “We can set up Fixicover operations in new countries within a matter of days. We did this in the entire Benelux, Switzerland, Sweden, France and last but not least, the USA and Canada.”
FixiCover is an initiative of Fixico, which is a VC funded company. Their latest round was €7 million in May 2019 by Autotech Ventures. Total funding for Fixico is €14.3 million, with investments of Orange Growth Capital and various angels.
Header image: Driver bubble