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Liftshare founder sings praises of ‘sharing economy’ as his company turns 20

PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:36 25 September 2018

Ali Clabburn, front centre, founder and chief executive of Liftshare, with his team at their office in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ali Clabburn, front centre, founder and chief executive of Liftshare, with his team at their office in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

It began 20 years ago with a student who needed a cross-country lift home from university. Now Norwich company Liftshare is coming into its own as the ‘sharing economy’ principles and digital format it is based on become ever more popular.

Now Norwich company Liftshare is coming into its own as the ‘sharing economy’ principles and digital format it is based on become ever more popular.

The company, which now has 25 staff based at its head office in Duke Street, expects to have helped 650 million shared journeys to happen around the world by the end of this year and supports car-sharing schemes for companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Tesco and Heathrow Airport.

Ali Clabburn, founder and chief executive of Liftshare, said it was exciting to see the recent growth of the sharing economy – typified by companies like Airbnb.

“It feels like at long last I am not the only one thinking about this,” he said.

“The potential of sharing to solve some of the huge societal problems we face is massive.

“There are companies doing great things with the internet to bring people and services together so they can be shared. It is opening up the accommodation market and the travel market, spaces and offices are being better used.”

He said the internet – which was relatively uncommon in households when Liftshare launched in 1998 – had forced businesses to become more “transparent and consumer-led”.

“If you build systems technology-first rather than people-first you can make very expensive mistakes, and we have made a few so the lesson is to always test things out with people first,” he said.

Mr Clabburn wants to encourage more lift-sharing in the East of England, particularly in his home city.

He said: “Among its commuters, Norwich has nine drivers on the road for every one passenger. If we got that down to six drivers per passenger it would take 20% of the cars off the road.”

Liftshare’s environmental benefits will continue to be a focus too, as recent developments such as the government’s Clean Air Strategy bring environmental issues to the fore.

Mr Clabburn said: “When I set Liftshare up I was solving a social problem. In the early 2000s, when the environmental movement was taking off, it became clear to me that Liftshare had a big role to play in that. It is very much in our DNA.

“Environment is now back on the political agenda: cities across the country are about to be fined for not meeting air quality targets and the quickest way that a city can improve air quality is to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road.”

Liftshare is a past member of the Future50 programme of business support, which identifies the most exciting companies in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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