Hytch, a sustainability-focused ridesharing tracking platform, is the first recipient of the first southeastern-focused impact investing fund. The $1.71 million fund was established last year by public-private entrepreneurial support organization LaunchTN and invests alongside business consultancy firm XMI Growth, angel investors and family offices.
Hytch, a two-year-old startup based in Nashville, has developed a platform that rewards users — with trees saved and in specific geographical areas, cash — for sharing rides with friends or taking public transit, thereby reducing their overall fuel emissions and alleviating traffic.
Hytch’s Rewards platform is sponsored by partners — corporations and organizations that pledge money to reward individuals willing to share their ride. For the companies, it’s a PR or recruiting play, as well as a way to collect valuable consumer data on how to evolve as mobility shifts.
The platform launched publicly in February in Nashville, with Nissan North America as the first sponsor. Within the first 100 days, Hytch Rewards sponsored more than 43,000 rides — generating $60,000 in cash payments to riders. The company claims that’s the equivalent of 1.6 million miles not driven, 494 less tons of carbon released and 33,000 trees or 660 acres of forest saved.
That figure has now more than doubled to 3.7 million shared miles.
The startup has stated that they plan to expand across the country, and any U.S. city that experiences traffic issues is a potential target market. According to Hytch co-founder and CEO Mark Cleveland, the investment “has been a major catalyst for attracting additional private capital.”
John Lanahan, LaunchTN’s director of capital formation, said that Hytch “is a great example of the type of company we want to support.”
“They have an opportunity to address growing mobility issues that plague many urban markets. And for every dollar of revenue they generate, they are able to quantify the amount of associated impact for Tennessee or any market in which they operate,” Lanahan said.
Impact investment funds aim to generate a meaningful social or environmental impact, along with financial ROI. Though they’re getting more commonplace, about three-quarters of investors are still unfamiliar with such funds.
LaunchTN’s impact fund is projected to make 10-15 seed-stage investments, ranging from $50,000-$150,000, in the next three years, in for-profit ventures solving social and environmental challenges. Areas of focus include agriculture, healthcare, sustainable living, education, clean energy and financial services.