Wellington based founders, Claudia Grave and Todd Foster, met at work and bonded over their passion for social innovation which led to the creation of Hitch – a carpooling platform. Hitch won Soda’s latest Seed Grant and is planning to use their $7,000 winnings to help fund their Wellington CBD trial. We asked Claudia a few questions about this promising new startup.

How did the idea for Hitch come about?

We are both passionate about social innovation and climate change. We started to get itchy feet thinking about how we could have impact over and above what we were having in our day jobs and personal lives, and this is where we started to brainstorm. Hitch came about when we were sitting in a cafe on Waterloo Quay during peak traffic hour, pondering climate change. We couldn't help but notice the number of single occupancy vehicles. The way we use cars and the impact this is having on traffic congestion and climate change just didn't make sense to us.

Tell us about Hitch...

Kiwi commuters collectively drive to the moon and back 40 times every day. That’s a distance of more than 30 million kilometres. Every single day. And almost everyone that drives, goes by themselves. The end effect is that 5.5 million empty seats are travelling to and from work every day. We think that is absolutely crazy. It contributes to traffic congestion, strain on our infrastructure, and most importantly, contributes to the climate crisis. Hitch is on a mission to fundamentally change the way people move through a dynamic workplace carpooling solution which connects commuters heading the same way at the same time. Hitch makes carpooling more convenient, flexible and cost effective and gives car commuters and businesses a platform to do their bit for the environment.

When did you first start working on the business concept?

We started working on Hitch in November 2020. We started by spending a couple of mornings a week in a local cafe researching the problem. We did all sorts of things during this time to complete early validation, such as sitting outside the Mt Vic tunnel in the pouring rain and counting the number of single occupancy vehicles during peak hour.

What stage is your business currently at?

Pre revenue. We've done a tonne of validation including trialling carpooling ourselves with beta users. In lockdown we were able to evolve our product. We're now getting ready to put this to the test and launch a Wellington CBD trial in November. We've got 17 epic organisations on board for this trial. We've also got a couple of other trials in the works across the rest of New Zealand. Once we've completed these trials, we will be looking to raise another round of capital to evolve Hitch into a dynamic mobile application.  

Who or what inspires you?

Hitch’s vision for the future! Climate change anxiety is real, but it is very refreshing to think of the impact we can have with Hitch. We envisage a future with less need for roads and parking and a future with less cards and more cleaner. greener spaces.

What has been your biggest learning on this journey?

How willing people are to help out! The startup ecosystem is amazing, it feels like there is always someone with a solution or advice to any challenge. We've found this willingness to help actually extends well beyond the startup ecosystem too! Its great what happens when you just ask!  

What advice would you give other start-ups?

If you have an idea, just get started! It can be daunting to get started and feel scary to share your ideas with other people. Many people are often scared to put their idea out there in the real world in case someone else steals it or there are negative reactions. We felt this, but these feelings couldn't have been further from the truth. Many people have ideas, but the number that actually execute on these ideas are few and far between so it’s pretty unlikely someone will steal your idea. It’s also super important to give yourself the time, space, structure and discipline to work on your idea. It’s amazing what can happen when you just start!  

What is your goal for Hitch?

Hitch is on a mission to fundamentally change the way people move. Our ultimate goal is to get to a future in which our public spaces are cleaner and greener. A future with less cars and connected, healthier communities. Carpooling is just one part of the mobility equation, and while it will be our starting point, as we grow, we see huge opportunity in expanding our service to a much broader mobility offering.