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Can Montreal’s Netlift give Uber a run for its money?

Netlift Montreal videogame giant Ubisoft has launched a pilot project, allowing 250 of its employees to test a carpooling app for the next four months built by Netlift, a company that specializes in technology-enabled multi-modal carpooling.

Netlift provides a free mobile app, available on both the App store and Google Play, which enables commuters to optimize their commute by combining public transportation and carpooling.

Ubisoft’s decision to partner with Netlift came through the Innobahn initiative, run in collaboration with Montreal’s Board of Trade, which pairs local start-ups with companies, including L’Oréal and Grand Prix Trois-Rivières, searching for solutions germane to their company’s culture.

 

Montreal video game maker Ubisoft uses Netlift…

 

For Ubisoft, the issue that Netlift solves is their employees’ commute.

In selecting Netlift, Ubisoft’s HR.Comm VP Cédric Orvoine said, “Netlift is the solution that best answers our sustainable mobility challenge. It offers a wide range of opportunities to ease the transportation of our employees. The presentation was very impressive and very well documented.”

Netlift offers an app-based way of pairing riders searching for an optimal way from their home to their workplace, with drivers, who can pick up a rider for either part or the entirety of their ride while getting reimbursed for part of the cost of commuting.

Prices tend to range from $3.50 for up to 5 km to $4.50 for up to 8 km.

Much like Uber, payment, locating rides near you, and rating drivers and riders are handled seamlessly through the app.

Both riders and drivers save money, and can shorten their commute by 30% by using highway reserved lanes reserved for multi-occupancy vehicles, not to mention the environmental benefit of keeping the extra greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Unlike Uber, though, Netlift puts the “share” back into the sharing economy.

The “sharing economy” as a business model gained traction some years ago, when more altruistic online communities, such as Couchsurfing.com, were one-upped by Airbnb and then Uber, which are not so much about peer-to-peer sharing as they are about adapting the rhetoric of the sharing economy in order to maximize their own profits.

Which is great if you run one of those companies, and okay if you’re fixated on saving a dollar each time someone chauffeurs you around the city.

But not so great for the economy at large, and not ideal if you’re a municipality looking for entrepreneurial partners to help offer commuters the best range of options for getting around the city in a transparent and mutually beneficial way.

Netlift raised a $1.3 million seed round in June, through investors and strategic partners Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Caisse de Dépôt et de Placement du Québec, along with Cycle Capital and other investors, and seed capital in the form of convertible notes provided by BDC after Netlift completed Cycle Capital’s Ecofuel Accelerator program.

Netlift has a membership of 7,500 members, not including the Ubisoft ridership, and boasts a twinning rate of 57% in the greater Montreal area, which rises to 80% in the more urbane Plateau neighbourhood.

For a carpooling app like Netlift, it makes sense to seek arrangements with companies eager to encourage their employees to participate in a ridesharing program, rather than to compete with the taxi industry or with Uber.

Companies that already use the service include Bell Canada, the City of Montreal, the Montreal Airport, and Montreal area higher education institutions like the Cégep de Saint-Laurent and Vanier College.

A company like Netlift, too, with its modular approach, acts more as a complement to public transit, much like bikesharing programs, providing both drivers and riders with a greater range of transportation options.

Netlift is preparing to enter the Ontario market before the end of 2017.

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