Karhoo rides again: Nissan/Renault buys failed on-demand ride startup

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So much for more consolidation in the world of on-demand transportation startups. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that Karhoo — a failed on-demand offering that aggregated drivers and ride options from hundreds of existing fleets of car services in an Uber-like app — has been brought out of administration.

It will be relaunched by Boris Pilichowski and Nicolas Andine as co-CEOs, with full financial backing from RCI Bank and Services, the financial services division of the car giant Renault. Pilichowski and Andine had been running Karhoo just before it went bankrupt, taking over from founder Daniel Ishag.

The plan will be to open for business globally sometime this year, although no definite launch date has been set.

While the new owners are not publicly revealing financial terms, a source has passed us a report from Karhoo’s administrators with more details. The document alleges that the new Karhoo was acquiredby a group called Flit Technologies, led by “two former employees” of Karhoo with full backing from RCI Bank and Services, for around $1 million ($500,000 for Karhoo, $500,000 towards paying creditors), plus a commitment of $15 million in further investment.

The development comes after the administrators originally received bids from between 30 and 40 interested groups, the report said.

There are other interesting details in the administrators’ document. For example, while it had been reported originally that Karhoo had raised $250 million in funding, apparently it had only actually raised around $52 million (which was all spent).

Renault buying into Karhoo is part of a larger trend we’ve been seeing of automotive companies buying into the growing world of on-demand transportation startups, in part to hedge their bets about what the future of automotive ownership and driving will look like. Others have included VW investing $300 million in Gett, Daimler buying a majority of Hailo, and GM putting $500 million in Lyft.

Up to now Renault has largely been absent from those investment and acquisition plays, but it has been eyeing up a moment to make its move.

“In 2016 we formed a range of partnerships to support our development strategy on auto-mobility services and solutions for our customers,” said Gianluca De Ficchy, CEO of RCI Bank and Services, in a statement.

“The acquisition of the start-up Karhoo appeared as a sudden opportunity that we did not want to miss and the acquisition was completed rapidly. We have met the highly-motivated teams, and I have every confidence in Karhoo’s business model; it is innovative and underpinned by a first-class technological platform. We will also be able to capitalize on this platform as part of our activities for the Alliance brands.”

While Karhoo had about 200 employees, the new operation will be kicking off with only 35 people, with the majority based in the U.K. The company had forged links with hundreds of car service companies to built out its service. Whether these groups will be willing to work with Karhoo again remains to be seen.

Featured Image: Bartolomiej Pietrzyk/Shutterstock

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