Thanks to the massive success of Uber, it seems there’s a new ride-sharing, carpooling, or other transportation service popping up just about every day. The latest is Ride, a platform designed to help commuters find carpools with other employees heading to work around the same time.
With a huge number of different services out there trying to get people from Point A to Point B, Ride seeks to differentiate itself from the pack in a number of ways. For one thing, the service is focused specifically on the problem of commuting, and is designed to help company employees build carpools to reduce the number of cars on the road.
Note that this is not a model where the company is hiring drivers to meet peak commute demand and paying them to go out of their way to pick someone up and drop them off at a location of their choice. The shared commuter service seeks to match up people who are willing to host a carpool with those who simply want a ride, and to make it easy for them to share the costs of doing so.
Unlike Uber, Lyft or some others, there’s really no profit-sharing going on. For drivers and passengers, it’s just built around cost savings for commuters for getting to and from work. Those costs are based on fairly well-understood metrics around the price of gas and routine wear and tear on the vehicle doing the driving every day.
It’s not a new idea, just one where Ride thinks it can improve the experience thanks to technology. What might have been done via flyers posted in a company’s kitchen area is now, instead, being done online. As a result, the company is taking its platform to enterprises and offering it to them as an alternative commuter benefit for employees.
The service is launching first in the San Francisco Bay Area with Stanford University as its anchor client. Within two weeks of introducing the service, more than 1,500 employees had signed up, and the company expects significantly more by year end.
On Ride, anyone can add their commute and the platform then matches it with other employees heading in the same direction at the same time. They merely enter their starting point and general time of departure, and Ride does the rest.
It calculates the overall cost of the ride and handles all the transactions for users so they don’t have to haggle over the cost of gas or whatnot. It takes a small transaction fee for doing so, but that’s heavily offset by the cost savings most passengers will see from sharing with one, two or even three others.
It can even provide larger vehicles to drivers at no cost to support a higher density of passengers all going in the same direction. And it can do that, because Ride is an extension of a longer-run business backed by one of Uber’s major investors.
The story of how Ride came to be is a pretty interesting one. Back in 2010, TPG Growth bought out a vanpooling company called Van Pool Services Inc. (VPSI), which had been around since the ’70s and was once a subsidiary of Chrysler. It rebranded that service as vRide and put longtime auto exec Ann Fandozzi in charge in 2012.
(TPG, of course, went on to be a big part of Uber’s first big growth round in 2013 — during those quaint days when its financing was measured just in the hundreds of millions instead of billions.)
Since then, the vanpooling business has been rolling along, but vRide knew that it could do more to promote general carpooling among corporate clients where a full van wasn’t feasible. To reach that end, for about six months Fandozzi recruited* Oscar Salazar, who was part of the founding team at Uber (née UberCab), before he agreed to join and work on building out a carpooling service with her.
The good news for Ride is that even though it is new, there’s not a lot of pressure for the service to show ultra-fast growth due to the demands of justifying a big venture capital investment.
The vanpool business is not only profitable, but also gives Ride some leads due to existing customers on that side of the business. After all, maybe a company doesn’t have enough employee density to support a seven-seater vehicle, but it might get a couple of people who live nearby to share a ride together.
With that in mind, Rides hopes to provide the best option for commuters at companies large or small.
* She says “stalked.”