FOCUS – Ecologic, free, user-friendly and road safety; such are the concepts of this innovative project, by three young student-entrepreneurs at the IAE in Grenoble. They have just launched the OpenCar website, catering to everyone in Grenoble. Its originality? Being the first 100% free carpooling platform in France.
Is free local carpooling possible? Thanks to the OpenCar platform, this original and innovative project became a reality on 12th April, after a year and a half of work. A success for François Fantin, Lucas Durand and Paul Feipeler, the creators of OpenCar.
These three young student-entrepreneurs from the Institut d’Administration des entreprises (IAE) in Grenoble have filed their statute as a simplified joint-stock society (SAS).
“Road safety, user-friendly, free and ecology, are concepts that guide us every day,” explains François Fantin, president of OpenCar and Master 2 student in ‘Entrepreneurship and small business advice’. “The site will be free for everyone, except for the partners. We think there is a future in this kind of social concept,” he said.
A goal of 8,000 users
Bearing values to improve the future of the Metropolis, this project addresses very concrete problems: pollution, traffic, overnight transport deficit and a lack of solidarity between the inhabitants, among others. Topics considered from an entrepreneurial perspective. “In 2014, in our social economy and solidarity course, we analysed the problems repeatedly encountered in the metropolitan area. Apart from those related to ecology, the strong presence of traffic jams and permanent pollution in the agglomeration appeared to us to be important”, remembers François Fantin.
This is where the idea of creating a local carpooling platform came from. In other words, a way to overcome the difficulties associated with traffic, while respecting the environment. “The objective is not to create new routes, but to try to fill the cars up and limit the number in circulation in the metropolitan area”, adds François Fantin.
If the journey is already planned, why not share it with fellow citizens? The idea of being able to help each other on a daily basis, being another basic principle of the project.
After the design phase, came the search for finance. At the beginning, the three founders resorted to crowdfunding and appeals to individuals, amounting to 1,525 euros, before winning two entrepreneurial competitions: The Responsible Conduct prize, in June 2015 (5,000 euros), then the Young Entrepreneur prize, in October (1,500 euros).
The last phase of the project: the achievement of the official launch of the OpenCar website on 12th April. “Only drivers could register in advance, so that they could post their daily trip at the launch,” said the president of OpenCar. “Our goal is to reach 8,000 people on the platform, drivers and passengers included.”
A charter for drivers
What are the keywords of the site? Clarity and speed. Each user has a profile. It can be rated and be subject to comments as a driver or passenger. The objective? To avoid problems related to security in general, and in particular, road safety. For example: drivers who go to a bar or nightclub will have to sign a charter, in which they commit to not drinking alcohol and to respect the Highway Code.
Once a profile is activated, the driver may then access the OpenCar partner space, to create their journey. The platform boasts different pick-up points around the agglomeration under different headings: universities, sport and leisure centres, concert halls, bars-nightclubs, ski resorts, shopping malls, etc. The passenger has just to click on the tab ‘Join’ to reserve a place. Communication – first by mail and then by phone – follows rapidly.
Free: a sustainable objective
Can the exchange remain 100% free? “Drivers directly accumulate points on the platform, depending on the distance and the number of people they carry”, explains François Fantin. “Then they can go to the website shop to buy gifts, at various prices, according to the number of points accumulated.”
On the partner side, this means gaining visibility, and also becoming a point of reference in a neighbourhood. This explains the enthusiasm with which some have joined the project: “For the moment, we have 31 partners on record. At the launch of the site, there will be nearly 40. We plan to have more and more, with a goal of about 80 to 100 within a year.”
The OpenCar founders are already looking towards the future. There are many projects under construction: creating an application to facilitate communication between users and the development of OpenCar on a regional, then national scale. Projects that will depend on the success of the site in Grenoble.
Traduction from Speak English Center
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