In these difficult days of the arrival of peak oil, concerns over carbon emissions and more widespread environmental awareness, many offerings have popped up in the consumer cleantech space, primarily led by Treehugger, the media outlet aiming to drive sustainability into the mainstream.
But lately we've also seen the emergence of sites that provide a particular service for environmentally conscious consumers, and by extension the enterprise set wishing to make a dent in their level of environmental impact. One of these services has been transportation aggregation and there are two offerings to look at in this space.
PickupPal was launched in January and aims to connect people needing personal transportation with a private vehicle traveling along a similar route. PickupPal's core service is providing a venue for either passengers or packages to find or be matched to a driver—typically already traveling in a certain direction or destination. PickupPal originally monetized their offering via a 7% commission chargeable on the value of the transaction, but recently announced that they were changing their pricing model to be completely free.
Under the PickupPal system, travelers can lodge a required trip while drivers can lodge a drive. PickupPal does the backend work necessary to connect the two parties. Travelers can then make an assessment of the other part based on community rating and review and also consider the price offered on the site. Once an agreement is made, PickupPal issues both parties with a "ticket" that details the necessary information.
The parties are responsible for payment and after the ride they are encouraged to leave feedback on PickupPal to increase the quality of community rating.
PickupPal can also set up discrete sites for groups or events to facilitate transportation – in this way businesses for can enable workers to arrange efficient transport, decreasing their overall environment impact and, as cynics would claim, creating some greenwash with which to appease the eco warriors.
Questions still remain about the viability of a free service, on the PickupPal forum users have asked how PickupPal will make money – as yet there is no obvious answer to that question.
New entrant Cooreea boasts a similar functionality to PickupPal. Cooreea however includes the transactional part of the exchange on their own site and charges users a commission for the privilege. In this way their monetization path is obvious (Cooreea charges a 5% commission on completed journeys), how much this will limit growth is yet unknown. Cooreea includes tools to secure the exchange chain as an item is transported, with transaction held until completion while the SafeTrack system ensures security for both parties.
Cooreea also seems built with the view towards using it as a commercial transportation provider site. A note on the site indicates that advanced options, allowing commercial users to use their service as a clearing house, are in the pipeline. As such Cooreea is essentially a logistics platform similar to many in the transportation industry but in a unique twist an individual has equal access as a large freight company. Cooreea is also intending to offer advanced services to people wishing to run their own transport company, independent cycle couriers, shuttle drivers and the like.
Cooreea has just come out of private testing and is now available as a public beta for New Zealand users. The founders of Cooreea (a joint New Zealand/European startup) are actively looking for investment to both scale their offering functionally, and also broaden their geographic presence.
Which, if any, offering will succeed?
In guessing which of these two providers will ultimately achieve success, we need to look at the very questions around paid vs free services. Specifically can a free service ever reach financial viability, and can a paid service attract users given the existence of free competitors? PickupPal has the benefit of being the first kid on the block, and also has some traction in the market-that-matters, the USA. Cooreea on the other hand has a more viable business model and clear paths to make the offering both consumer facing and business facing. The challenge for both companies lies in building scale on the back of partners – and this is primarily a strategic question rather than a technical one.