Women-focused ridesharing service Shebah has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for expansion.
Launched by George McEncroe in 2017, Shebah is a rideshare service for drivers and passengers identifying as women. Its focus is on giving passengers the ability to travel, and drivers the opportunity to work, safely without fear.
Boys to the age of 13 travelling with a woman are welcome, while boys aged between 13 and 18 can travel unaccompanied until 5pm.
The company has seen strong growth since launch: Shebah reported that it turned over $1.8 million in 2018, up from just $500,000 in 2017. Now active in seven markets around Australia, with three more readying for launch, it has around 3,000 drivers on board.
McEncroe said the crowdfunding campaign was launched because she wants to give the women who have helped Shebah grow the opportunity to share in its success.
However, the campaign is somewhat bittersweet – McEncroe approached investors for funding but was unable to raise.
“The business world just doesn’t understand how difficult it is for women founders to raise funds to grow their respective businesses,” she said.
“People say there’s investment money around, but it’s being held by male gatekeepers who just can’t accept what it’s like for women to travel in other rideshares or taxis and feel the kind of fear a man would never feel if they were in the same scenario.”
McEncroe believes the situation is “more proof of the sexism toward women-owned startups”, stating that the issue is particularly pronounced for those, such as Shebah, that service a women-only customer base.
“Men perhaps don’t understand what it is like to sit in the back seat,” she said.
“And if women are coming home late, they don’t know the city they’re in very well, or have had a few drinks, they still have the right to get home safely and without feeling dread or fear.”
As demand for rides grows, a key issue Shebah must overcome is the fact that it does not yet have enough drivers on board to keep up with passengers: McEncroe herself drives on the weekends to help riders.
“Shebah’s growth is evidence that getting home safely without fear is not easy for women in Australia,” she said.
“My hope is that the proving demand for a women-only ride sharing service will encourage the taxi and rideshare industry to improve safety for all drivers and passengers, all genders.”