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Sidecar raises another $15 million as Sir Richard Branson throws money into the pot

Uber and Lyft get their fair share of media attention, for sure. However, there are plenty of other ride-sharing services out there, with some, like Sidecar, steadily expanding in a highly competitive market.

In its latest round of funding, the San Francisco-based company has managed to raise $15 million from existing and new investors, Virgin founder and CEO Sir Richard Branson among them. The startup has previously attracted investment to the tune of $20 million.

The money will be used to expand the Shared Rides element of its service, which matches a rider with another one nearby to halve the cost of the fee.

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In a post on the Sidecar blog this week, co-founder and CEO Sunil Paul said Shared Rides, which launched four months ago, has encouraged people to use the ride-sharing service on a daily basis for a myriad of reasons. “We’ve even made a few love connections,” Paul wrote.

Taking note of the competition, rival service Uber launched its own similar sharing option – UberPool – in August.

Branson: ‘Sidecar can take on the big guys’

It’s not known precisely how much the Virgin boss threw into the pot, but backing from a high-profile business leader like Branson, who grew his company from a single record shop in 1970 into the global business empire that it is today, should certainly give the startup a boost.

Paul and Richard Branson have actually known each other for a couple of years – a factor that no doubt worked in Sidecar’s favor when it came to persuading the British businessman to open his wallet – having worked together on the launch of the Gigaton Awards with the Carbon War Room in 2010 to celebrate leaders in sustainability.

Branson said he put money into Sidecar because he likes companies that are “innovative, offer exciting customer experiences and make the world better,” adding, “An entrepreneurial company like Sidecar can take on the big guys with innovation and big ideas, not just big bank accounts.”

Branson also said that despite some commentators viewing the ride-sharing business as a “winner-takes-all market,” he firmly believes it’s anything but.

“These are early days and, like a lot of other commodity businesses, there is room for innovators on great customer experiences,” the Virgin boss said.

Sidecar launched in early 2012 and currently serves 12 locations throughout the US.