SG’s car sharing platform Drive lah bags $3.2m in pre-Series A round

Drive lah co-founders Gaurav Singhal and Dirk-Jan ter Horst

Drive lah, Singapore’s first peer-to-peer car sharing platform, announced that it has raised $3.2 million in a pre-Series A round, led by global technology services company Nityo Infotech’s corporate venture arm.

KFC Ventures will pump in $1 million in the startup and become its largest investor so far, Drive lah’s co-founder Gaurav Singhal told DealStreetAsia.

The round also saw the participation of returning investor HH Investments VC, as well as Accelerating Asia, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar Robin Chase and other angel investors.

The corpus raised will go towards accelerating geographical expansion and product expansion, said Singhal.

With the current round, the total funding raised by the startup stands at $4.1 million.

Airbnb for cars

Founded in January 2019 by Gaurav Singhal and Dirk-Jan ter Horst, Drive lah’s model is much like Airbnb in the travel sector.

The startup allows owners to rent out their idle cars for extra income. Driven largely by millennials, demand for flexible mobility is on the rise as increasing cost of ownership and parking constraints in cities have made owning a car less attractive.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Singaporeans to work from home or stay indoors, leading to under-utilised cars.

“Cars are idle 95% of the time, so for owners, it makes sense to put this asset to use. Renters get unlimited access to nearby cars without the cost of owning one,” said co-founder ter Horst. Unlike traditional car rental companies, Drive lah does not own any car on its platform and instead utilises available cars on the road.

Both Singhal and ter Horst were marketing executives at Amsterdam-based paints and performance coatings company AkzoNobel before starting Drive lah in 2019.

The decision to launch the car rental platform was guided by their own experience in Singapore and overseas wherein they found the renting process “difficult and inconvenient” as “there were a lot of people and hidden costs involved,” said Singhal.

“Our proprietary in-car technology enables keyless access through your phone, and this makes it extremely convenient and safe for users. Moreover, it is 30-40% cheaper than anywhere else,” said co-founder ter Horst.

Drive lah offers rental on an hourly basis or even for a day – users can drive anywhere they want within their booking period at a fixed rate.

The firm has also started offering long-term rentals through a subscription service that offers the flexibility to cancel the service at any time.

Rental rates are decided by the car owners, though Drive lah offers them insights into the market pricing. Drive lah charges a commission rate of 20% to 25% to cover for insurance costs, depending on the needs of the driver.

The largest fleet size in Singapore

Drive lah now has more than 150,000 registered users on the platform and claims to have grown 10x in revenue since its first investors came on board late 2019.

The firm declined to reveal the number of cars listed on their platform but says that they are currently the largest car-sharing company in Singapore in terms of fleet size and variety – 152 models available. Other car-sharing platforms in Singapore include electric car-sharing firm Blue SG, Tribecar, Car Club, WhizzCar, CarLite, Shariot.

“With Drive lah, you are likely to find a car in your neighbourhood because all the cars on our platform are privately owned, and hence we have the most number of stations. That’s what makes it extremely convenient,” said Singhal.

The startup also acquired troubled fleet-based car-sharing startup Smove in Singapore last year. “We acquired about 130,000 users from them and we continue to service them with our model,” said Singhal. They are also working to implement Smove’s technology onto Drive lah’s platform – both on the software and hardware side.

“The future looks exciting – the mobility market in Asia Pacific is huge and waiting to be disrupted. We recently launched in Australia where the market is five times bigger than Singapore’s and there’s a lot of domestic usage of car rentals in Australia,” Singhal said. They plan to expand further to Hong Kong and Malaysia in the next 12 months.

Robin Chase, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar and Drive lah’s investor said: “Cities are responding to climate, congestion, and liveability concerns by providing high-quality transit, encouraging walking and biking, and making daily urban car use less convenient. Together, these actions all lead to dramatically increasing the number of households who want to rent but not own a car. Drive lah fills this need for occasional on-demand car use, and it has proved to master the operations, technology, and customer service needed to build a thriving business in Singapore.”

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.