See Jane Go is bringing women-only ride hailing to the West Coast

Earlier this spring, Safeher (the ride-hailing service formerly known as Chariot for Women) established itself in the Boston area as a safer service for women drivers and passengers. Now See Jane Go is starting a similar service for women in the greater Los Angeles area this summer. Its public launch is today, with a commercial launch coming at the end of July.

William Jordan founded the company in January of this year when his teenage daughters expressed interest in riding with or even driving for companies like Uber and Lyft. That sparked a conversation about the safety and personal comfort issues in taking rides from — or giving rides to — strange men. Jordan noticed there was an unmet opportunity for a service that catered to women and used women drivers.

See Jane Go isn’t worried about competition from Safeher; besides the sheer distance between the two services currently, “it validates that there is a market,” said CEO Kimberly Toonen in a phone interview. See Jane Go used focus groups to determine that if there was a women-only service that wasn’t radically more expensive or had much slower response times than established services like Uber and Lyft, women would select See Jane Go “all day long,” Toonen said.

Toonen said See Jane Go was surprised to learn that only about 15% of people have used a ride-hail service, despite how ubiquitous Uber and Lyft seem. She was less surprised to learn that only about a quarter of these services’ drivers are women. “They’ve shied away from this business opportunity,” she said.

See Jane Go drivers go through criminal background checks and a driving history review before being brought on board. Drivers must supply their licenses with their applications, and the self-identified gender on the license is all the validation the company requires. LGBTQ+ drivers and riders “will absolutely be able to use this service,” Toonen said.

The company also aims to create “stickiness” for drivers so that they’ll drive more and pick up more rides. To that end, See Jane Go is working to partner with an as-yet-unnamed manufacturer on its 30 Rides program. Any driver who provides 30 rides in a month in their new car has their car payment covered to the tune of about $300, according to Toonen. “Drivers get a really nice deal on a brand-new car,” she said. “And it might help those women who don’t have a car currently, or they are sharing a car in a one-car household, or they have a car that needs replacing.” (See Jane Go requires that vehicles be less than 11 years old.)

Like most apps, the See Jane Go app includes a 5-star rating system for users. But it also gives drivers and passengers the ability to favorite each other. The feature increases the chances that someone will be paired with her favorite rider or driver. “It’s not a guarantee that you’ll get Sally instead of Betty,” Toonen said, “but it’s a smart algorithm so that your favorite driver will come up in the queue. They’ll get the hail before anyone else.”

See Jane Go has big plans for the future, including tapping into the networking potential of so many women giving and taking rides across the country — and eventually around the globe. “We want to emphasize the fact that women, by the nature of the sharing economy, have largely been excluded. This is an opportunity to participate in the gig economy. We’re creating a community of women helping women to achieve goals, whether they’re personal or professional.”

Update 6/22/16: Edited to fix a typo; only 15% of people in the US have used a ride hail service, not 35%.