This week Dutch startup Splitcar received a 10.000 euro loan to further develop their car sharing platform. Unlike similar platforms, Splitcar’s main focus isn’t the potential extra revenue a car can produce for its owner, but to build communities around a car and the close group of people who use it. Niche-ception; is this apparent timeshare-like approach different enough to survive in an already heavily saturated market?
The Twente-based startup received the loan after being selected for the so-called TOP light spot by Kennispark Twente, a Dutch accelerator for innovative business ideas. Top Light is intended for aspiring entrepreneurs with an idea that is not yet fully developed. Selected startups also get to participate in support workshops, sessions with fellow starters and meetings with coaches and mentors.
There have been many similar initiatives in the The Netherlands in the field of P2P car sharing. The big question, then, is if the startup can bring enough new ideas to the table to truly make an impact in a market that has been dominated by other startups. The first name that comes to mind of course is Snappcar, the popular car sharing platform that has been a leader in this specific niche of the ever growing sharing economy. Snappcar has already received millions in funding from the crowd and investors – last year they even acquired Swedish based car sharing platform MinBilDinBil, with more plans to grow internationally. Even then, they struggled.
Thomas van Eenbergen, co-founder of Splitcar, seems confident however: “Current car-share platforms focus on the occasional renting of a car. SplitCar focuses on sharing a car for the long term. A large group of people already share their car with acquaintances, but the cost division and insurance are often not so well organised,” according to Van Eenbergen. “With SplitCar it will be easy and accessible to share a car on an equal footing with a fixed community, such as your neighbours, friends or family. In addition, SplitCar is also developing an appropriate insurance solution”.
Long term car sharing
In other words: Splitcar believes in long term car sharing with a fixed group of the same people – people that you know and trust, instead of incidental rental to strangers. They look at the car as a closed community where every member shares the costs based on the miles they drive.
A quick buck
According to the founders, this community-based approach is different than other car sharing platforms. Research however has shown that the main reasons for car owners to share their car is to get some extra income. And let’s be honest: in the end, the main reason you will share your car with others is to save money on a sustainable and efficient way. In such instances, the difference in sharing your car with strangers or a fixed small circle of acquaintances seems quite arbitrary.
No room left
Like all startups time will tell if the approach has succes. But it will need a bit more than a 10.000 euro loan and big ideas to successfully make a difference in a market that has little, to no, room left for new players.