Everyone’s a Winner with Lebanon’s New Carpooling App

Rita Khawand, Jan 29 2016

Some 300,000 cars enter Beirut every day - and that’s not counting the existing cars in the capital. To exacerbate the problem, most cars have one or two commuters at most. No wonder then that traffic jams have become the nightmare of every Lebanese driver.

For the developers of the ride sharing app Carpolo, carpooling sounded like a simple and effective way to start reducing the number of cars and the resulting congestion. And why not take this opportunity to help people make new social connections?

Nothing Is More Powerful Than an Idea Whose Time Has Come

Having relied on carpooling to tour Europe during his studies abroad, Computer Science graduate Mohamad Nabaa was behind one of the many initiatives to promote the carpooling concept in Lebanon. Because it is still a “foreign” concept, he started thinking of ways to make carpooling as culturally relevant as possible - for example, giving people the option to ride with commuters of the same gender.

And so the idea of a ride-sharing app was born. Originally named Tulos, it was an app intended to make it easier for students or employees of the same institution to share car rides.

Nabaa had won the North Lebanon Startup Weekend Competition for his idea which he had developed as his senior project at the Beirut Arab University (BAU). He then teamed up with 3 other university graduates and together they won the Samir and Claude Abillama Eco-Entrepreneurship Award in 2015, a prestigious recognition that  also included a $20,000 prize towards the development of the idea.

Recently, the Carpolo team was selected among the first 6 startups to benefit from a 3-month acceleration cycle by Speed@BDD. The program helped Carpolo develop their project and explore ways of expanding their business concept to include wider communities and organizations.

Carpooling Is Fun!

To make people more comfortable with the carpooling concept, Carpolo decided they would target specific institutions - which would also allow more control. The app requires users to sign up with their work emails only, and matches with their colleagues and peers based on their location in real-time thanks to an advanced verification algorithm.

With the lack of proper public transportation in Lebanon, Carpolo not only helps users reduce their fuel and parking costs, but contributes to lowering car emissions that pollute the air of our cities. And of course, less cars means less traffic.

In addition to these obvious benefits, Carpolo offers the advantage of an enhanced UX. The app includes social and gamification features whereby users earn points per ride, which they can exchange  for gifts and rewards - this way, Carpolo creates an incentive to increase user engagement and conversion.

"Our business model is based on a combination of two elements:a points exchange system and an association with lifestyle brands," said Nabaa.

Carpoolers exchange points instead of money. For example, whenever a successful ride is completed, a passenger pays the driver a certain number of points to join a ride, the driver will earn 60% of these points, which he/she can accumulate and exchange for vouchers or discounts at partner retail stores, or donate to causes. The remaining 40% will be converted to “experience points” that help both passenger and driver “level up” or earn “trophies” within the app.

Are You Ready to Carpool?

Carpolo will launch their app on the Apple Store in February 2016, and the Android version will follow by April 2016.

The app will be available for institutional (both academic and corporate) users wishing to benefit from the system. With such a structured and incentivizing system in place, the developers hope their user base will grow by word of mouth and peer pressure.

"Our initial focus will be on university students in Lebanon but we will also proactively explore opportunities in Egypt, Jordan, and the Middle East,” said Nabaa.

Are you interested in carpooling? Stay tuned to the app’s website for updates, or send your inquiries to the developers.

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