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Little Guy Sidecar Is Still Kicking, Raises $15 Million More for Ride-Sharing

"It has been reported this is a winner takes all market, but it's not," says new investor Richard Branson.

Though they have many competitors around the world, San Francisco-based Uber and Lyft have become the main characters in mobile-enabled ride-sharing.

Now their hometown rival Sidecar — which has always played the game a little differently by requiring riders to input destinations and allowing them to choose a specific driver, as well as experimenting with combining multiple rides in one car — has raised an additional $15 million to take them on.

The funding comes from existing investors Avalon Ventures and Union Square Ventures, along with billionaire Richard Branson.

“It has been reported this is a winner takes all market, but it’s not,” Branson said in an interview staged for the company’s blog. “These are early days and, like a lot of other commodity businesses, there is room for innovators on great customer experiences.”

Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul said the funding would be used to fuel the company’s “Shared Rides” initiative, which helps people headed in the same direction split the cost of a ride. Thousands of such rides are being matched in San Francisco per week, Paul said.

However, Sidecar, as well as Lyft and Uber — which recently launched similar products called Lyft Line and UberPool — were told last week by the California Public Utilities Commission they’re not allowed to combine multiple paying passengers in a single vehicle. So this key feature, like so many from these three companies before it, is under regulatory fire.

Sidecar previously announced a $10 million round of funding this February. It has now accumulated a total of $35 million. But that’s obviously in the context of Uber raising more than a billion dollars and Lyft raising hundreds of millions.

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