A very candid interview with Carpooling CEO Markus Barnikel

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The world’s leading ridesharing network Carpooling has today closed a $10 million Series C funding round, led by German car manufacturer Daimler AG. Based in Munich and New York with early investment from Berlin-based Earlybird VC (Series A & B), Carpooling is one of Germany’s proudest homemade success stories. Having pioneered one of the most attractive segments in the social commerce space, the Carpooling marketplace gives rides to over 1 million people across Europe every month. To honour its growth, we decided to catch up with German founder and CEO Markus Barnikel.

Markus, how did you get around as a kid? Did you carpool?

As a teenager, I used to carpool to school with my friends all the time. I had an old VW Golf and my friends would have the same fight every morning over who got to ride in the front seat. Sometimes, I would cycle to school just to avoid this drama.

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Speaking of cycling, last year you added trains, buses and planes to the mix. Any plans to add other modes of transportation? Sailboats? Jetskis?

Our users are always looking for smart mobility solutions, so why not add jetskis or sailboats to help people go from A to B across a bay? We will consider every affordable, safe and convenient mobility solution for our users, but I must admit that we get more requests for bikes than jetskis. At the end of the day our success metric is always our user. Are they happy? Are they offering rides? Adapting to the needs of our customers is our focus.

Right now Carpooling is the Number 1 Social Commerce platform for mobility. If in a year, that’s no longer the case, which app has taken your place? What does it do?

That’s a tough question. People will always need to get from A to B, they will always need affordable and convenient mobility options so there will always be a need for our service. It’s hard to imagine that this trend would suddenly cease in the space of a year. We are very user-focused and are constantly adapting our offering to meet the needs of our users. If they want hovercraft lifts in five years, then we will be ready to offer that as well.

At any given time, users can choose between 650k rides in over 40 countries. Which of these countries would you (personally) least likely accept a ride from a stranger?

Luckily you don’t ride with strangers on carpooling.com! Before you even meet the person you will travel with, you already have a lot of information about them. You can see the star rating of the user and what other people said about them. Are they a good driver? Did they make frequent stops? Was it a pleasant ride? You certainly don’t have that same level of information when you step onto train, bus, or taxi. That said, I would accept a ride with anyone who has received good ratings from other users and who has put enough information on their profile such as their car license plate, photo id or Facebook profile. The country does not matter to me as long as the users have a good reputation on the platform.

Fair enough. Can you tell us something Carpooling has done for its users aside from commuting them to work?

Well, 16 people have gotten married thanks to carpooling. That’s at least from the people who have written in to tell us their stories. We’ve also saved 430,000,000 litres of gas. And 860,000 tons of carbon emissions.

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