Women-only ride-sharing startup Shebah bags $3 million in biggest-ever equity-crowdfunding raise


Shebah founder and chief executive George McEncroe. Source: supplied.

Australian women-only ride-sharing platform Shebah has broken the record for the most amount raised under Australia’s new equity-crowdfunding regime, pulling in a total of $3 million over its month-long campaign.

Midway through March, the company cracked the $1 million mark for its crowdfunding campaign, and in the final minutes of the raise last night it pulled over the $3 million mark on crowdfunding platform Birchal, meaning the raise was fully subscribed.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Shebah founder George McEncroe said while she is still a bit shocked, she felt “just stoked, delighted beyond words”.

“I’m so relieved and amazed, and I feel really supported, and also a bit daunted. I’ve got pressure now from investors, and I’m aware of their commitments and expectations, and I take that responsibility very seriously,” she says.

“I’ve bootstrapped for so long, so to have a force and endorsement from so many people is not just a shot in the arm in terms of capital, its confidence that what we’re doing is valuable.

“I don’t want to disappoint anyone, so we’ll be working bloody hard to make sure we deliver.”

The equity-crowdfunding raise was contributed to by more than 2,100 investors, with 94% of them being women, which Birchal believes is the largest representation of women in a public offer of securities globally. Shebah is only the third equity-crowdfunding campaign in Australia to hit its target after licences were granted in January last year.

The $3 million raise cracks the previous record of $2.6 million, held by local neobank up-and-comer Xinja, which was broken less than one month ago. However, Xinja holds the record for the highest total amount raised via equity crowdfunding thanks to an initial $2.4 million raise in 2017.

“We’re so thrilled that Shebah now holds this record. Shebah’s founder George McEncroe and her team are brilliant ambassadors, and a perfect case study for what is possible under the equity-crowdfunding regime in Australia now” Matt Vitale, co-founder of Birchal, said in a statement.

Corporate partnerships on the cards

Shebah, which launched in 2017, is an Uber-like ride-sharing service available only to women and children, and with exclusively women drivers. McEncroe started the service after realising the perils of typical ride-sharing services, hearing numerous reports of women feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.

The funding from the raise will be used to kickstart the services’ growth, along with facilitating its expansion into New Zealand, the founder says, though the main focus will be on the company’s driver onboarding process and corporate partnership capabilities.

“The plan for the money is to make the onboarding process far smoother, as right now it’s still desktop based and basically just an MVP,” she says.

“We’re also going to enable our B2B partnerships, as because we’re the only service allowed to transport unaccompanied minors, we’ve had all sorts of demand just sitting there from corporates and not-for-profits that we haven’t been able to facilitate.”

Investors in Shebah could contribute as little as $50, and as much as $1 million. While the majority of investors contributed smaller amounts, McEncroe was surprised when an unnamed investor put in the maximum of $1 million, making up a third of the raise.

While McEncroe knows the identity of the investor, they’ve requested to stay anonymous, though the founder is “enormously grateful”.

Other notable investors include Girl Geek Academy founder Sarah Moran, former Brisbane City Council chief executive Jude Munro AO, and women in sport advocate Danielle Warby.

While McEncroe is planning to celebrate, she’s got some more “domestic” things to worry about in the immediate future, like her son’s driving test and year 12 studies. However, she says she’s planning to crack the champagne soon enough, along with investing in a new car for her to drive Shebah in.

“I was hoping we’d hit the $3 million mark, but I didn’t dare say it out loud. I have so much thanks for everyone who believed in our vision,” she says.

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