- Environmental and socially responsible firms are growing in popularity among Millennials
- Facedrive has enhanced its portfolio to include food delivery from local restaurants, contact tracing wearable solutions, and car-sharing with electric vehicles
- Facedrive Health is developing COVID-19 contact tracing tech with a choice of wearables for employees at busy workplaces; Air Canada is testing this technology
What began solely as a ride sharing platform focused on environmental and sustainable solutions has now transformed into a tech ecosystem catering to the food delivery, e-commerce and health tech sectors.
Facedrive Inc (TSXV: FD | OTCQX: FDVRF | FRA: 4WR), a “people-and-planet first” tech ecosystem, has developed a robust umbrella of socially responsible services with a strong commitment to doing business fairly, equitably and sustainably.
But how did this all begin and what is the company up to now?
Facedrive got its start as a Toronto-based rideshare company filling the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) niche by offering rides in electric and hybrid vehicles, paying drivers/owners of those vehicles a premium and planting trees to offset carbon emissions from its services.
Fast forward to today, and the company is publicly traded and has expanded into multiple platforms and markets all tied together by technology and a focus on ESG. As part of this commitment, Facedrive’s vision is to fulfil its mandate through a number of verticals leveraging technologies and expertise the company already has on board or can gather through acquisitions of related firms with similar cultures and visions.
“What if we built this organization more into an ESG platform, with multiple pillars, where a user can come into the one ecosystem, understand the value and be part of something they truly believe in?”
— Sayan Navaratnam, CEO, Facedrive Inc.
The idea to bundle diverse service offerings with these synergies came about when Facedrive’s CEO, Sayan Navaratnam, took the reins in 2018. He thought, “What if we built this organization more into an ESG platform, with multiple pillars, where a user can come into the one ecosystem, understand the value and be part of something they truly believe in?”
When speaking with investors early on, Navaratnam found that many wanted to leave something better behind for future generations, both environmentally and socially, which is why they were making investment decisions accordingly as a result.
And among the ESG funds out there, why not have Facedrive become one of those sustainable investment options?
Navaratnam explains, “If you look at the marketplace today, all these funds are being set up, but they don’t really have a place to go and invest in ESG. We’re a unique platform that gives investors a socially responsible place to invest in.”
How Millennials are making a social impact with their investments
According to a 2016 report from the Responsible Investment Association, “Millennials are more inclined than previous generations to consider responsible investing, which includes integrating environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors into their portfolios.”
Here are some key findings from the report:
- Millennial investors view companies with strong social and environmental practices as more profitable and overall superior long-term investments
- Millennials are more likely than Baby Boomers to believe that companies with good social and environmental practices will be more profitable
- 82 per cent of millennial investors believe that responsible investing will become more important in the next 5 years
- 67 per cent believe it is important for their financial advisor to be knowledgeable about RI issues and trends, compared to 52 per cent of Gen X and 54 per cent of Boomers
Now in 2020, the value of responsible investing has not waned. In fact, responsible investing (RI) has grown tremendously in Canada. As of “December 31st, 2019, RI assets under management are worth $3.2 trillion,” which corresponds to growth of 48.5 per cent over a two-year period.
Taking this into account, Navaratnam notes, "I think people are starting to realize that in the field of transportation, it is often more efficient to use ridesharing as a service than to own a product — a vehicle in this case".
Taking that to heart, the company has diversified from its ride-sharing beginnings to add several offerings that can use the same platform and drivers – food delivery, delivery of medicine, and a marketplace of responsible products. Drivers are able to get more work, benefiting directly, while the company gained economies of scale.
The pandemic has also acted as a catalyst for the company drafting expansion plans into Europe and the U.S. while also developing contact tracing wearable technology.
Need food delivery? Facedrive Foods has you covered
Using their ridesharing platform and a pair of acquisitions as a base, the company launched Facedrive Foods in Toronto and Scarborough in August, focused on offering green delivery of food from local restaurants.
“That’s worked out really well for us so far. We’re supporting a lot of local community business, which has suffered more than others,” Navaratnam notes. “During COVID the food delivery business has grown considerably.”
Consistent with the company’s core philosophy, the new service continues to focus on the use of electric and hybrid vehicles. They’ve also made things easier for drivers by arranging for e-transfers of payment at preferred banking rates (this is also a benefit for drivers who want to send money to their families overseas) and striking a deal with TELUS to get them preferred wireless data rates so it’s easier to keep in touch on the road.
Taking care of their partners, drivers, and the environment is all part of the core approach.
To boost the growth and get into the market faster, Facedrive acquired Foodora Canada assets and Food Highway. Food Highway specializes in delivering Asian food to Asian clients, who often find more traditional delivery services challenging to use because of language barriers.
Using those platforms, Facedrive Foods has the potential to rapidly expand into a number of different specialized niches, across diverse cultures and food interests, and even recommendations. After the Food Hwy acquisition, Facedrive Foods is now present in 19 cities across Canada.
COVID tracking made simple with Facedrive Health
How did a ride sharing platform expand to include wearable contact tracing technology?
It all started earlier this year, with a focus on putting in place technology to help workers and employers combat the virus together.
Facedrive partnered with a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo to introduce a new digital contact-tracing app known as TraceSCAN. The combined efforts led to the launch of a new company segment, Facedrive Health, a unit charged with creating a contact tracing wearable to extend Health Canada’s existing phone-based contact tracing app to employees in busy workplaces where they come into contact with many people.
The wearable can be a small device held within an ID tag or other piece of equipment, so workers don’t need to have a smartphone on them for contact tracing to work.
If a user tests positive for COVID-19, authorized organization staff and health officials can access TraceSCAN data through a secure cloud-based dashboard and view the complete list of users that individual has been in close contact with and assess their level of risk, all while preserving user anonymity. Those employees can then be alerted.
TraceSCAN can also promptly alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure that crucial steps can be taken in order to decrease the further spread of the virus.
The technology is already being trialed by Air Canada for potential use supporting contact tracing for employees, while more than 300 unions and employers in construction, manufacturing, travel, and sports entertainment have expressed interest in using the technology.
Of course, Facedrive is working to roll the product out with its drivers.
Navaratnam figures these platforms have staying power long beyond COVID.
Making waves in the U.S. with electric vehicles
To expand its current multifaceted offering, Facedrive has purchased the assets of Steer from Exelorate (a subsidiary of Exelon). Steer is a U.S.-based electric vehicle car-sharing subscription company, giving Facedrive access to both the U.S. marketplace and its first inroads into the business of marketing monthly subscriptions to use shared green vehicles, which is in line with ridesharing and can use a similar platform.
An expansion to the EU is underway
Facedrive’s larger vision of the future is what attracted Jay Wilgar to join Facedrive when Navaratnam approached him last year. Wilgar has a deep history in marketing and growing companies in emerging industries. He founded and operated cannabis company Newstrike for seven years — the company perhaps best known for its partnership with The Tragically Hip. He grew the company to 300 employees before selling it a year ago. Before that, he worked in wind farm development.
Wilgar and Navaratnam met a couple of years ago, and when Navaratnam heard Wilgar had left Newstrike he approached him about joining Facedrive’s board of directors to advise on public markets, marketing, and expansion plans.
“It’s been a really interesting 12 months. The company has changed a lot,” Wilgar says. “The pandemic has been tough on traditional ridesharing. We have been able to take that situation and profit quickly. It’s worked out relatively well to our advantage.”
While the company is based in Central Canada’s big markets, it has ambitious expansion plans centred on university cities throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Vancouver, B.C., and London in the U.K. are on Wilgar’s list too.
“There is more opportunity in Europe, due to the fact that more European countries have stronger regulations around emissions,” he says. “I think the company is poised for some really great stuff in the next six – 12 months.”
To learn more about Facedrive’s environmentally conscious business model, visit their website here.
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Facedrive Inc trades on the TSXV under $FD, the OTCQX under $FDVRF and Frankfurt Exchange under $4WR