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Is it a trade secret? SA mobility startup Lüla — which last month launched a bid to raise R2.5-million from investors through local equity crowdfunding platform Uprise.Africa by end of May — won’t say what kind of vehicles its crowd-sourced shuttles are.
The startup has so far raised R278 000, with 68 days left to hit the R2.5-million target.
In a statement last month, Lüla said it targets corporate commuters with over 50 employees across Cape Town. It said it crowdsources private shuttles that can offer scheduled door-to-door rides which picks up commuters from their home to work and back.
However, earlier this month when Ventureburn asked for more details from its founder CEO Velani Mboweni (pictured above) on what these shuttles were exactly — whether they were sedan cars or minibuses or vans — Mboweni said he did not want to reveal any details, such as the capacity of the vehicle.
He would only comment that the startup has “carved out a very niche market” in the sector.
Lüla co-founder Velani Mboweni will not reveal whether his startup’s shuttles are sedan cars or minibuses or vans
He was also quick to stress — when pressed to comment — that the shuttles had nothing to do with the minibus taxi industry. He said that the startup did not compete with the sector, one he had much admiration for.
Mboweni said so far the company has over 100 drivers on its books and is “still struggling to meet demand”, adding that the startup currently had 11 businesses from Cape Town signed up with it.
He said while some signups had come from Joburg, the startup is not yet servicing the city as it is focusing on Cape Town to begin with.
Those who want to make use of the startup’s shuttle services must fall in one of the platform’s published routes. So far the startup has 30 such published routes.
Mboweni said once a certain number of passengers have requested a service, the startup will then look to add a new route.
He estimates that those that use the service can make about 20% in direct savings (this doesn’t include any savings on maintenance costs), on not having to pay for fuel, while the service is about 60% to 80% more affordable than having to use a ride-hailing service on the same route.
For example, those that use the route from Old Mutual’s building in Pinelands to Athlone and Crawford which involves four or five pickups, pay about R24 a trip, he said.
For over four years Lüla initially provided public transport management systems in Gauteng to public agencies and bus operators, such as Busmark. This involved providing operators with things such as fare collection technology and vehicle tracking systems.
Mboweni said he and co-founder Xabiso Nodada decided to pivot the startup to its current model, because it had become frustrating to work with the public sector — particularly as more established companies are more favoured than startup when working with the government.
Mboweni, who is the nephew of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, would not be drawn to comment on whether having a high-profile family member has helped his startup gain traction or not.
Featured image: Lüla CEO and founder Velani Mboweni (Supplied)