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The UAE’s Udrive secures $5M

The UAE’s homegrown brand providing a  pay-per-minute car rental service for UAE residents and tourists, Udriverecently completed another solid funding round with strategic investments of $5M from Cultiv8and Oman Holding International.

Udrive is a pay-per-minute car rental concept that started in January 2017 by offering drivers in Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi a cost-effective, short-term driving solution. Drivers can book a car for their journey via the Udrive app or the website, find it at a location that’s convenient to them, and then simply drive off. Known as the first technology platform in the GCC to offer car rentals by the minute, Udrive recorded strong growth in 2021, clocking two million trips to date, making it one of the largest rental booking platforms by transactions per car in the region.

Transport & Logistics (T&L) has been one of the most anticipated sectors in 2021 as recorded in our State of Startup Funding- 2022 Emerging Venture Markets Report, available for download. Gaining exceptional investor traction across the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, and Turkey, the T&L sector observed a 460% YoY growth in funding across Emerging Venture Markets, nearing the $2Bn mark in 2021. This was driven, in part, by sizable investments in Egypt-based Halanand Swvl, UAE-based iMile, and Lyve GlobalGetirin Turkey, and Airliftin Pakistan, as well as other leading Q-commerce, Freight Management, and Asset-Light Courier solutions across MENA. When it comes to the Automotive, Transport, and Mobility solutions sector across Emerging Venture Markets, opportunity for competition remains prime as new market entrants raise funds over the past years. While the lion’s share of investments last year went to car and car-part marketplaces Seez(UAE), and Odiggo (UAE), the right-sharing concept took off in Saudi Arabia with a peer-to-peer angle championed by Saudi-based Ejaroraising its Pre-SEED last year from BIM Ventures

Car sharing platforms have seen exponential growth worldwide as well as in the Middle East. By 2026, the number of users in the car-sharing segment is expected to reach 60.7m and according to a report by Valuates, the global car-sharing market will reach 103 billion USD by 2025, with a CAGR of 17.2% during the forecast period. Additionally, KPMG reports almost 50% of car owners today will no longer want to own a vehicle by 2025 and a separate report by ResearchAndMarkets claims 4 out of every 10 car journeys will be via car share. 

Udrive addresses the short-term on-demand rentals by adding additional services including free fuel, parking, and comprehensive insurance for all its customers. Its cars can be driven per minute or per day, depending on the needs of the customer. Cars can also be picked up from any location available and can be returned to the same city at any parking location.  The mobile app booking process is simple, fast, and efficient and functions as an all-purpose digital hub for private transport, payments, customer service, and logistics, reducing dramatically the time it takes compared to traditional rental companies. Udrive CEO and co-founder Nicholas Watson highlighted “We want to provide this service to everyone who can drive, and the reality is customer demand is shifting fast from buying & owning to on-demand and subscription.”

In line with the Dubai leadership’s digital vision, new funding was secured from Cultiv8, the government’s SME and startup investment arm. “Mobility tech is one of the key investment sectors our technology fund focuses on, and UDrive perfectly fits the fund’s guidelines and the fund manager’s ambitions. With the newly formed board and management team, we are excited for Udrive’s continued triple-digit growth across the MENAT region during 2022,” says Arif Alawi, CEO of Cultiv8. 

Joining Cultiv8 in the funding round was Muscat-based Oman Holdings International, which owns Budget Oman and sees the future of mobility.  OHI’s investment and knowledge of the space will support Udrive’s commitment to doubling its annual revenue target and vehicle fleet. “We can expect to see radical shifts in how cars will be used both globally and regionally,” commented Oman Holdings International’s Director & CEO Eihab Saleh. “With a vision to drive this change, Udrive presented their well-articulated plan to achieve successful entry across new market making our decision easy to invest in Udrive. We are confident that their product roadmap is expected to significantly change the way cars are ‘consumed’ and utilized in the MENAT region.”

The investment will support Udrive for the upcoming expansion in the region and enhancements of its technology. Additional emphasis will be given to streamlining the customer experience, an example of which has been the automatic parking payment system, wherein the car determines where it is parked and automatically pays the relevant meter charges.

Udrive CEO and co-founder Nicholas Watson concluded “We are digitizing mobility making it easily accessible to everyone. The recent funding secured will help us invest in new technologies as well as grow our offerings into the region this year. We want to provide this service to everyone who can drive, and the reality is customer demand is shifting fast from buying & owning to on-demand and subscription. We are proud to have well-respected and diverse regional business leaders bringing unique experiences and growth potential to the business. Raising money was never about just the funds, but our ability to operate at scale and bring true change to old incumbent business models. We started this concept in the UAE and are now continuing our expansion across the region.”