Vancouver startup releases taxi app for sharing cabs with strangers

Cab Share Canada is first being marketed in Vancouver and London, Ont., where it hopes to grow a critical mass of users

It’s a taxi app the taxi industry might not totally hate.

Cab Share Canada, the brainchild of four college students whose combined age equals that of many CEOs, last week released its crowd-funded app enabling people to connect with others mutually in need of a cab. The idea is that sharing equals money saved—a benefit undoubtedly close-to-heart for its 19-year-old creators.
“My partner Shehan was the one who thought of the idea,” explains Jack Gardner, one of the Vancouver startup’s partners and a second-year student at Douglas College in New Westminster. “He would often see groups of 15 or more waiting for a taxi back at the University of Western Ontario with people all going in the same direction. So it just made sense to somehow get those users connected so they can [split their bill and] save money.”
The free app, which makes money from ads, garnered 300 downloads in its first week “and the number continues to grow each day,” Gardner says. That follows the $2,500-plus it raised on Kickstarter. Currently, Cab Share Canada is only available for iPhone, but an Android version will launch in the near future.
It works like this: Users are able to select their cab-sharing matches, chat with them beforehand and even restrict matches by gender, addressing one of the app’s obvious concerns—safety. As well, “we have a list of safety tips such as ‘meeting in a public place,’” Gardner says.
Unlike Uber, currently facing a six-month ban in Vancouver compliments of city council, Cab Share Canada works within the regulated taxi industry, not as competition to it, and therefore may not similarly enrage local cab companies.
Though it could mean fewer fares, in that the app aims to more efficiently move people in the same way carpooling does. But in a city where cab licences trade for up to $800,000—the highest in Canada and an indicator that the city is underserviced by taxis—there’s little doubt that plenty of demand for cabs will remain.
For Cab Share Canada’s part, “we are just glad to get the app completed and out there for people to download,” Gardner says. “It’s been a long and stressful time, and now that the app is out, we can focus on getting users.” A critical mass is, of course, what makes or breaks these apps.