While collective consumption has really taken off in the last year thanks to the Airbnbs and Ubers of the world, carpooling and ride-sharing have been around a bit longer. But for the last few years, a number of ride-sharing startups have been making headway in areas where carpooling traditionally has lacked, like safety — the biggest obstacle standing in the way of mass adoption for collective consumption startups. While there isn’t a whole lot of differentiation among the ride-sharing set, Ridejoy is looking to change that.
For those unfamiliar, the YC-backed startup brings people together for long-distance road trips (which they define as those trips over 50 miles), allowing drivers to “sell” their extra seats to riders for cheap. Now that it has 3K active rides listed at any given time and some money in the bank, the startup is looking to expose its ride-sharing experience to a new audience with the launch of a new iPhone app.
Available for free in the App Store, Ridejoy’s new app upgrades the startup’s web experience by making it easier (and quicker) to post rides, search for rides by destination, review driver profiles and coordinate trips.
With hundreds of new rides being posted each day, the startup is looking to expand its footprint in the U.S. and Canada by enabling people to easily find trustworthy drivers with which to share their commute or their trip to Burning Man. To that point, Ridejoy grew out of BurningManRides.com, which the company’s co-founder Kalvin Wang established in 2011 to help people find rides to the infamous art festival in the desert. After launching in August 2011, the company saw 1,600 rides posted over a short period of time (as well as five plane rides) and decided to push forward with Ridejoy.
Wang reminded us that, although it may not appear so at first, ride-sharing is a fairly big market, with 2.3 billion long-distance trips occurring every year, with 76 percent of those in single-occupant vehicles.
So, with a new mobile app and some new tech, Ridejoy is looking for a way to better capture those users. In terms of safety, Ridejoy’s procedures have generally relied on users vetting other drivers and passengers through social networks (Wang tells us that 75 percent of users sign on via Facebook), along with user reviews and references.
While Ridejoy’s model is fairly similar to Zimride, in July it rolled out a feature that allows people to scan their driver’s licenses and passports, which the startup then verifies and allows them to post that to their profile. Another way of ensuring that you’re not catching a ride with a crazed, license-less fugitive — and once that differentiates from Zimride and other ride-sharers.
Ridejoy’s iPhone app also includes another cool distinguishing feature in its ability to serve users with flexible matching, pairing users by route instead of city-to-city. Users can also automatically receive notifications when drivers and passengers are going to be taking the same route you are/will be traveling, along with getting the scoop on other users before the ride, like photos, bios, etc.
Now users can also browse popular destinations on Ridejoy, view itineraries, pay and share costs by scanning their credit cards and activate a new feature called “Autopilot,” which aims to save Ridejoy searchers time and effort by automatically finding and confirming personalized ride matches.
In terms of cost, Ridejoy suggests a price before each trip (which drivers can change if they want), which is on average around $35 or $40 for SF to LA. The startup puts a cap on how much drivers can charge per mile ($0.50) to prevent drivers from bleeding their passengers dry. Though all in all, they said — in the spirit of Burning Man — many of its passengers are more interested in meeting people and having company during long trips than using the service to turn a profit.
As for Ridejoy itself (and its monetization), the startup takes a 15 percent cut on credit card transactions processed for each trip.