Through the Looking Glass: Liftsharing UK 18 years later

ali clabburn in car

Ali Clabburn, Founder, MD, and Possiblist of the UK ridesharing group Liftshare (at right above) reminds us 18 years later of how much has changed in the world of ridesharing, but also the whole spectrum of sustainable transport thinking and practice.

Ali’s personal story with ridesharing got started by accident.

When the Christmas holidays came round in 1996, Ali – then a young student at Bristol University – realised he didn’t have enough money for the train fare back to Norfolk. Convinced there must be others driving in a similar direction, he pinned a message on a student notice board, asking if anyone could give him a lift. The next day, he returned to find three offers of a ride home – and so the idea of Liftshare was born!

And now 18 years later Ali is still . For a start, the Liftshare  site currently has over 450,000 active members. By matching drivers with lift seekers, Liftshare also facilitates approximately 1 million shared lifts a month, thus preventing around 25,000 extra tons of CO2 from being released into our atmosphere.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Our typical commuter saves over £1000 a year by liftsharing. The platform has also been the source of hundreds of new friendships, thousands of great conversations and many, many jokes shared (some great, some…to a particular taste). It has also helped many access jobs that they could not otherwise commute to.

Ali sent me a reminder about how many things have changed over all these years only this morning.

On the 18th anniversary of  Liftshare.com

Dear Eric,

I hope all is good with you.

This week 18 years ago I pressed the button putting liftshare.com live on the internet. 2 weeks later another searching website went live in California – Google!

I can’t quite believe that our journey has already been 18 years in the making, but I am so proud of how far we have come and grateful for the huge amount of support we have received along the way. Thank you for playing your own part.

So much has changed – the internet, technology, mobile phones (although I still miss my Nokia 7210!), apps, social networks, the economy, environmental awareness, and the sharing economy. Our office has moved from a basement bedsit to a turkey shed to a job centre, and finally to a beautiful reclaimed building in Norwich. Our amazing team has grown, and best of all, thanks to the support of nearly 1,000 wonderful clients, we now help over a million shared trips happen every month across the UK.

Over 30 million trips have been shared by our members since we launched. So many amazing connections and happy travellers!

This all said, not everything we have tried has worked. We’ve learnt many lessons, rebuilt our software from scratch six times and pushed out into award winning apps.

We continue to disrupt ourselves to ensure we remain at the leading edge of finding new ways to help as many people share as possible. We’ve somehow managed to do all this without ever raising funding but purely by reinvesting in our team and R&D.

Surviving 18 years as a bootstrapped start-up is one of my proudest achievements to date.

One thing that has not changed is our desire to help people save money and reduce traffic or our mission to ensure everyone has someone to share a car with.

I’d love to keep you more in the loop with our latest news and developments, and so am planning to send out an update email quarterly. It’ll cover everything we’re up to – from tech advancements and new developments to interesting stories from across our network on football and festivals, as well as corporate car sharing and travel.

If you’d like to receive these updates, then there’s no action for you to take. We’ll send on the first as soon as it’s ready and you can stay up to date with all of us here at Liftshare. However, if you’d prefer not to receive any more of these updates, that’s fine – just click here to unsubscribe.

I hope you’ll stay tuned and follow our journey as we continue to encourage sharing, sustainability and informed travel choices.

Happy sharing!
Ali
Founder, MD, Possiblist; Liftshare
www.liftshare.com/business

# # #

On Ali Clabburn

ali clabburn liftshare say yesSocial Entrepreneur, Founder, Managing Director of liftshare, Ali has spent the last 18 years dedicated to helping communities to travel more sustainably. In 1998 whilst in his final year at University, 2 weeks before Google was born, he set up liftshare.com – a clever website which helps people find others travelling the same way as them so they can share their journey.

Ali and his team have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Innovation through Technology, The Ashden Award, Business Commitment to the Environment Award , Business in the Community National Award for Excellence, Essence of the Entrepreneur Award and the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

# # #

Editorial note: 

The concept of organizing through communications  and technology in order to share cars for the work trip has a long history, going back to the late 60s, boosted by the US DOT and other institutional support for what was then called carpools. These projects got off to a great start, but in many cases fell apart because they were not sufficiently stable given the basic organizational paradigm which more or less assumes that once a car pooling project was up and running that it was going to continue in its original form. Which did not happen because the majority of these early projects fell apart rather quickly.

Technology and in particular information and communications technologies have always been one of the key pillars to successful ridesharing. The original projects became possible because of small computers such as the powerful (by then-current standards, DEC PDP series of low-cost 16-bit minicomputers. However we had to wait until the rise of the Internet and a growing collection of open communications technologies to reach the situation that exists today, that is of a mature alternative sustainable transportation mode.

About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and international sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport - https://worldstreets.wordpress.com . | Britton online: https://goo.gl/9CJXTh

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