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Car-sharing service RelayRides expands into Boston from Cambridge, adds new funding

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 17, 2011 09:00 AM

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RelayRides, the "neighbor-to-neighbor" car-sharing service, is jumping the Charles this month, using $3.6 million in new funds to expand from Cambridge, where the company was founded, into Boston. The company is also expanding in the city of San Francisco, where it is now headquartered.

Unlike Zipcar, which leases the cars in its fleet, RelayRides invites car owners to rent out their cars when they don't need them. (The company was created last spring by Harvard Business School student Shelby Clark, and won a $50,000 prize in the inaugural MassChallenge start-up competition.) Clark tells me that the average car owner is earning about $250 a month by renting out a car through RelayRides, and that the company has 150 cars signed up for the service so far in Cambridge and San Francisco.

"We're starting to cover all of Metro Boston," Clark writes via e-mail. "The first car that we enrolled in Boston proper (near Boston Common) is an awesome Mercedes CLK convertible, which is available for only $8 an hour (priced lower than most standard car-sharing cars)."

Perhaps in response to recent negative publicity about Airbnb, a start-up that enables people to rent their homes — or rooms in their homes — to strangers to earn extra money, RelayRides is now emphasizing the $1 million insurance policy that covers cars rented out through the service.

RelayRides has now raised $10 million from a group of investors including Google Ventures, August Capital, Shasta Ventures, and Lisa Gansky. Several new competitors have cropped up since the company was founded, including Getaround.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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