RideTandem secures £1.75m in seed funding as it aims to tackle “transport poverty”

RideTandem, a mobility-as-a-service startup providing affordable and reliable transport solutions for people affected by “transport poverty”, has raised £1.75 million in seed funding. 1818 Venture Capital led the round, alongside Conduit Connect, Low Carbon Innovation Fund, several angels, and previous investors Ascension and Seedrs.

The investment follows two consecutive years of 10x growth for RideTandem – creating more than £10 million in new earnings for passengers on its services since launch – and will support continued hiring, particularly in product management and engineering, as RideTandem builds out its team.

RideTandem was founded in 2019 by Alex Shapland-Howes – previously managing director of education charity Future First – with former Global Innovation Fund investment director Tatseng Chiam and former Hireup CTO Huw McLeod. It works with taxi, minicab, and coach companies to provide commuter services for employers whose staff would otherwise be unable to work because of the cost, inconvenience, or complete absence of existing public transport options.

RideTandem operates outside of cities and urban centres, with its coverage currently strongest across the Midlands and East of England. Customers include Royal Mail, Primark, Transport for West Midlands, Direct Table Foods, Banham Poultry, and staffing agencies Manpower, Reed, First Call Contract Services, and Everest People Solutions.

Shapland-Howes, Chiam, and McLeod met through impact-focused venture builder programme Zinc, as part of a cohort looking at ways of supporting communities left behind by globalisation and automation.

Reflecting on the UK Government’s plan – part of its “Levelling Up” agenda – to bring the standard of public transport connectivity across the UK significantly closer to London’s, Shapland-Howes said: “Many jobs outside cities are only reliably accessible by car or taxi. Half of the lowest-earning 20 percent don’t own a vehicle – and can’t afford to commute by cab – so rely on public transport. But almost 5,000 bus routes, more than one in four, have been axed since 2012 – and, outside cities and larger towns, services that remain are often prohibitively expensive, infrequent, and unreliable, affecting people’s job prospects and social mobility.

“Despite recent pledges, we’ve not seen the investment from the Government that would be necessary to solve this across the country, so models like RideTandem’s can play a crucial part in the local transport mix.”

RideTandem has built a proprietary dispatch system – including driver and fleet management features and an app for drivers – but also works flexibly with transport partners, developing bespoke integrations with their existing systems. RideTandem also provides customer service and support for digital ticketing, which many of the transport partners are using for the first time.

Passengers use a mobile app designed to make block-booking easy and provide flexibility about when payments are taken. The app also includes live location for vehicle tracking.

“So far we’ve focused on ‘blue-collar’ transport poverty – it’s pretty unusual for a VC-backed business to primarily serve lower-income workers – and that will always be core to our business,” says Shapland-Howes. “But the opportunity to provide our services to a wider range of workers in different geographies, for whom environmental impact is a bigger concern than price or convenience – nudging more affluent workers who typically drive to work onto shared alternatives – is huge.”

Mark Smith, Partner at 1818 Venture Capital, added: “Transport poverty is one of the most underappreciated social justice issues, and the RideTandem team has achieved a remarkable impact in such a short time utilising innovative technology. To have done so while building a fully self-sustainable business model and growing substantially even through the pandemic is even more impressive. We look forward to supporting RideTandem as they continue to grow the business and change lives across the UK and beyond.”

RideTandem has now raised £2.6 million in total, including pre-seed investment from Ascension and Seedrs and grants from the European Space Agency and the Department for Transport.