Sidecar’s decision to shift its business model toward delivering packages, rather than people, seems to be a good one thus far.
The San Francisco-based company originally launched back in 2012, primarily focused on using everyday drivers to shuttle people around town.
Around the same time, two other Bay Area-based companies you may have heard of were doing something similar. Uber and Lyft have expanded massively since then, raising huge swaths of venture capital funding to support the growth and establish themselves as leaders of this new on-demand ride-hailing industry.
As Forbes noted last week, Sidecar stayed in the game by frequently introducing new innovations that Uber and Lyft would later implement, like carpooling, for example. It also stayed away from surge pricing and showed customers ride rates before they hailed a driver.
Still, though, the company couldn’t quite keep up with Uber and Lyft. So in February of this year, Sidecar started rolling out a B2B play, partnering with companies like Yelp-owned Eat24 that tap into Sidecar’s API to offer delivery of everything from groceries to flowers to power tools.
While Sidecar still operates a ride-hailing service, almost all of the company’s focus is on deliveries — and it’s been a successful pivot thus far.
In a blog post published today, CEO Sunil Paul wrote that his company has the “largest B2B on-demand network in the U.S.” and is on track to reach 200,000 total deliveries by this fall.
“By leveraging our ride-share business, we provide merchants with the fastest, most affordable and scalable on-demand delivery solution on the market,” Paul wrote.
We caught up with Paul in May, when Sidecar noted that deliveries made up more than half of the company’s revenue in San Francisco just three months after Sidecar launched the service. He told GeekWire that Sidecar is not only leveraging its existing technology to deliver packages, but also new software it built specifically for the new B2B play.
“For example, being able to bundle multiple pickups and dropoffs, and being able to re-route those in real-time because of a new request that can still be accommodated within a delivery deadline timeframe,” Paul said. “Or, things like being able to have a package in the trunk and match up with a rider going in a similar destination. That rider will never even know that there might be a package in the trunk.”
Sidecar has also inked key partnerships in the past year with companies like Eat24 and Meadow, which uses Sidecar to help deliver medical marijuana.
There are several companies, both big and small, trying to help deliver packages more quickly and at a lower cost — Amazon, Uber, Postmates, Google, and Deliv are just a few. But Paul said that there will be “room for lots of winners” in the on-demand economy, and not every business will want to work with a company like Uber.
“The other dynamic at work here is that Uber, since it has so much capital and is so big and so powerful, it threatens the business of lots of companies — especially those that want to have a relationship with the consumer around on-demand delivery,” he said in May. “Uber has made it very clear that they want to deliver things to consumer. They are clearly intent on owning consumers for those relationships.”
In today’s blog post, Paul added that Sidecar is now working to solve the “first yard.” Paul noted that while the company has already solved the “last mile” of delivery for merchants — the final transport before a package reaches your doorstep — it now wants to make the process “from where the product is made to its first mode of transportation” more efficient.
“We recently introduced walkers, bicycle couriers and scooters into our delivery network to solve the first yard,” he wrote. “The early results are very promising. Our walkers were able to decrease pickup times by 75 percent. In the coming weeks we’ll build out our delivery network to include multiple modes of transportation to solve the first yard of delivery. This will create dramatic efficiencies that will result in more money for our drivers, better prices for our merchant partners and faster deliveries and a better experience for the end consumer.”
When asked to provide examples of that “first yard,” Sidecar said “we just started rolling out and we don’t have specific examples we can offer at this time,” according to a spokesperson.