Could Splend mark the advent of a business trend that enables the share economy?

If you’ve ever requested an Uber ride to be later picked up by a 4×4, fuel guzzling behemoth of a vehicle, you’ll understand where this idea came from. Chris King, an avid user of Uber services, realised that there were two potential inhibitors to the flow of new drivers to the platform. While noticing that a number of full-time drivers were using personal vehicles, inappropriate for professional driving, Chris also recognised that potential uberX drivers were being turned away for either not having a vehicle or because of the age of their vehicle. So why not provide them, he thought. Aiming to open up opportunities for hundreds of Australians looking to earn through uberX, the former CFO launched Splend in July 2015. Described as a “vehicle subscription service,” and enabler of the share economy, Splend provides drivers with new and insured vehicles for a weekly fee of $275.

Chris said “with 10-15 per cent of uberX applicants not owning a car or having a vehicle older than nine years, Splend is helping remove one of the barriers to entry for prospective ridesharing applicants.”

‘Ridesharing will only continue to grow in popularity’

And with uberX recording a dramatic growth in rides since launching in April 2014 – reported at over 1.2 million per month in August last year – it would appear that both Splend and uberX are set to profit from this newfound symbiotic relationship. After all, supply must meet demand.

A recent analysis of Uber’s economic impact­ by Deloitte, which put the ­annual benefit to consumers at $81m per year, suggests that it’s likely that ridesharing will only continue to grow in popularity.

Deloitte Access Economics Director Dr Ric Simes said “the impact of the launch of uberX in Australia in April 2014 is playing out as one of our most compelling sharing economy stories. uberX is both transforming and growing the point-to-point transport market.”

‘Focused on rolling out as many vehicles as possible into the marketplace’

Splend vehicles are sourced and serviced through Automotive Holdings Group (AHG), Australia’s largest automotive retailer with 179 vehicle franchises at 102 locations. Chris comments that there is an enormous benefit to Splend in partnering with AHG because of their large network and service offering across the country. According to Chris, Splend will be focused on rolling out as many vehicles as possible into the marketplace to enable “drivers to be their own boss, work their own hours, and enjoy a flexible lifestyle.

“If we stick to that, the numbers will hopefully follow in due course,” said Chris.

From left: Splend founder, Chris King, shaking Sean Hogan's hand from AHG
From left: Splend founder, Chris King, shaking Sean Hogan’s hand from AHG

Having provided vehicle access to more than 350 Australians in just six months and with a further 500 drivers approved and awaiting vehicles, Splend are finalising a number of additional supply partnerships in anticipation of a rapid growth trajectory. Chris said the “unemployed, underemployed, and any other savvy individual who wants the opportunity to be self employed” will be attracted to the opportunities opened up by Splend.

“There has also been an exodus of taxi drivers who have come across to the uberX platform using Splend vehicles,” said Chris.

“We aim to have thousands of the vehicles on the road by the end of 2016,” he added.

‘Will business models that seek to ‘enable’ the sharing economy become the next start-up trend?’

Splend appears to be shaping up for a lucrative future after quickly finding its feet in the marketplace – its emergence surely piquing the curiosity of the most opportunist businessperson.

Speaking of Splend alone, Chris said “we see a huge opportunity in being the vehicle solutions provider of choice to a range of sharing economy business models. What’s to stop us providing vehicles as an add-on to a family renting an Airbnb house for the week?”

Will business models that seek to ‘enable’ the sharing economy become the next start-up trend? Might yesterday’s hoteliers and property investors begin turning to Airbnb as a primary medium for marketing and booking accommodation? Time will tell.

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