Women-focused ride sharing service Shebah is launching an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise $3 million in an effort to circumvent the “male gatekeepers” of venture capital.

Founded in Melbourne in 2017, Shebah’s service promises women safe transportation without harassment and, on the other side, employment opportunities to work as drivers.

Its national fleet of women drivers have Working with Children checks and as part of the driver onboarding program, women can access financial education on superannuation, managing GST and insurance.

The company says it turned over $1.8 million in 2018, up from $500,000 in 2017. The number of users has grown 190 per cent year-on-year are there are almost 3,000 drivers on the platform.  

Despite the growth Shebah founder George McEncroe says venture funding has been hard to secure and that sexism is rife among potential lenders who don’t see the growth opportunity for a service with a women-only customer base.  

“The business world just doesn’t understand how difficult it is for women founders to raise funds to grow their respective businesses,” McEncroe said.

“People say there’s investment money around, but it’s being held by male gatekeepers who just can’t accept what it’s like for women to travel in other rideshares or taxis and feel the kind of fear a man would never feel if they were in the same scenario.”

Instead McEncroe wants “the whole community to share in this success” by allowing its drivers, passengers and individual investors to participate in an an equity crowdfunding campaign, which is aiming to raise $3 million.

A relatively new way to raise capital, equity crowdfunding allows for businesses to raise up to $5 million in exchange for a stake in the company without having to go through venture capital firms or the ASX. Online retailer Booktopia and neobank Xinja are both currently conducting their own equity crowdfunding raises.

The capital raised from Shebah’s campaign will enable the company to grow its geographical footprint in Australia, launch into the New Zealand market and funding product development.

The service is available in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and is launching soon in Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide.

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