Shared transportation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is a thriving business, at least when done the conventional way: offline.
With millions of Nigerians using danfo mini bus other okadas to travel to their various workplaces and destinations, mobility startups have strive to digitize the market. However, mostly out of luck, especially in the two-wheeled mobility space.
While most of the mobility technology in the country centered around two-wheeled vehicles and car-hailing, there is almost no intentional disturbance in the bus-sharing and mass transit spaces.
player, a “technology-enabled scheduled bus sharing” company, wants to change that. After years of bootstrapping, the company has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from a number of investors to scale the blitz inside and outside Nigeria.
Chicago and Africa-focused investment firm Vested World led the round. Fintech unicorn Interswitch, Africa-focused VC, Rising Tide Africa, Launch Africa, EchoVC, Consonance Investment, CcHub Syndicate, CMC 21 & Alsa, ShEquity, Five35, Sakore and Nikky Taurus also participated in the round.
CEO Damilola Olokesusi founded Shuttlers in 2016 to address the problem of inefficient transportation costs in Nigeria’s most famous urban city, Lagos. Through a ridesharing platform, Shuttlers provides companies with better mobility options for their employees.
But when Shuttlers launched in 2017, it didn’t have a working mobile app. Instead, the company is running an unconventional online model using Slack, email, and WhatsApp to communicate with its customers.
However, it was enough to join his first business client. Tech talent unicorn Andela is Shuttlers’ first B2B2C client, Olokesusi told TechCrunch over the phone.
The B2B2C plan is one of the three main offerings of the Shuttlers provider; here, companies share the payment of transportation fare with their employees in any way they want. Others include B2B, where business clients pay the full rate of their employees and B2C, where individual customers pay their own rates.
“Our mission is to change the way people travel around the world by building a global network of partners and connecting the badminton community like ours now do in Lagos, Nigeria,” Olokesusi said in a statement.
After a revamp in 2019, Shuttlers now offers fully functional application that allows mobile professionals on its three plans to book trips. Through the platform, commuters can reserve a seat on one of the buses following a predetermined and scheduled route.
According to the company, commuters pay 80% less when using its service than other ride-hailing services “without spikes and peak period prices.”
Some of the other features include live bus tracking, optimized routing based on traffic and digital payments, the company said. It also has a subscription feature where commuters can schedule trips in advance for a certain period of time.
Despite increasing only ️3 million (~$6,000) from friends and family and grants since 2016, Shuttlers growth is staggering. The company claims to have more than 10,000 users across its mobile app and website users.
More than 100 unbranded and branded buses are on its platform, hijacking more than 30 routes in Lagos with more than 300 stops. In total, they have logged over 2 million trips since the company’s inception.
Olokesusi added that his company sells more than 6,000 bus tickets every day, meaning more than 3,000 people travel both ways every day..
After doing this much for so little, why is the company increasing its seed round now? First, it seems the company wants to go head-to-head with VC-supported competition; The funding came at a time when newcomers were starting to expand across the country, mostly especially from Plentywaka based in Toronto and Lagos.
Techstars supported companies are actively sparked expansion in Nigeria and Ghana after raising more than $1.5 million in funding, money was also used to acquire similar player in Ghana.
However, Olokesusi said that investors’ interest in the company was the main reason behind the company’s first venture capital entry.
“We do not actively looking for investors; However, there is now more attention in the shared mobility industry because of companies like SWVL. Now, investors are interested in this and consider local mobility games to be a valuable solution,” said Olokesusi.
“Our only make the right decisions for the company at this right time so we can be prepared for the opportunities that follow. Now we are ready to take over the African market, starting with the Nigerian and West African markets in the next few months. ”
The company has started operations in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, but Olokesusi did not say which other cities within and outside Nigeria Shuttlers will expand to next.
In the same vein, Nneka Eze, managing director at lead investor VestedWorld, said her company believes that “the investment will help Shuttlers expand its offering. to adjacent markets and help address inefficiencies in the transport sector across regions of Africa.”
Olokesusi is one of the few female founders on the continent to have gotten a significant round of VC this year. But his trip to the Shuttlers wasn’t accidental, when he told me how working for an oil and gas company took the forefront of where he wanted to work after studying chemical engineering at university.
The founder was born in Lagos but grew up in Ibadan, a neighboring city with a less chaotic transportation system than Lagos. Years after returning to the commercial city of Nigeria, Olokesusi will face the infamous and unsettling method of booking bus seats on public buses (danfos), which he said “disturbed” him, recounted his experience in this interview.
“There are fewer problems about people catching buses in Ibadan. In Lagos, I remember when I walked to the bus stop for the first time I was really surprised how people ran so fast to get a seat.. It was my first interaction using the danfo bus in Lagos, but like everyone, I got used to it.”
The CEO said he attended several technology conferences and meetings that opened his mind to the possibility of starting a technology company to solve the problems around him. HoweverIt wasn’t until after his first internship and workplace after graduation that the idea of becoming a badminton player started to take shape.
He experienced two contrasts in both workplaces. His first employer had a bus to transport Olokesusi and his colleagues from home to work and vice versa. Meanwhile, in the second second, he used danfos once again.
“What broke the camels’ hearts was the first time I left the country in 2014, experiencing what it means to live in a city with smart transportation.. By the time I return to Nigeria, I don’t want to go back to using public transport,” he said.
Upon his return, Olokesusi reinvented the staff bus model. He felt the model could replace danfos and private cars – the first choice options that professionals use to get to work. With Shuttlers, he also wanted to democratize the model and make it accessible to other users whose company might not be able to afford the service.
Five years later, Shuttlers is not only profitable while raising money and making expansion plans; he is also concerned with encouraging environmental impact.
The latter is evident in a recent survey from Shuttlers conducted recently where nearly 30% of their daily commuters own a car. In essence, the company is, in small ways, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that commuters would have to emit if they used their cars every day.
“Every time our bus is on the road, we reduce the number of cars on the road. We are also optimizing routes and reducing the number of buses and emissions on the road,” said founder and CEO. “As we continue, we will be very careful in recording and calculating how much gas emissions we reduce per route and daily, possible Also release a report on how we impact the environment positive. ”