Sometimes there's upside to meeting people when sharing rides. I met my husband while sharing a taxi cab out of Burbank, Calif. Little did I know that the 40-minute ride would lead to a new life for me as we have three sons and one more on the way. While getting married to people you share rides with isn't common, sharing rides with strangers is certainly becoming more so.
About 2.6 billion long distance trips (more than 50 miles) are taken each year in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Transportation. And, a portion of those will likely be trips that bring together strangers just looking to save money, or save the earth. (Looking for significant others is not a good reason.)
One company, Ridejoy, which helps people find rides, wants to capitalize on this trend. Ridejoy announced Monday that it's raised a seed round of funding from Freestyle Capital, Lerer Ventures, DST's Start Fund, SV Angel, and Founder Collective. Individuals who participated include Ben Ling, Owen Van Natta and Joshua Schachter.
Y Combinator was the first investor, giving Ridejoy $20,000 ($5,000, plus $5,000 for each founder) for 5% to 10% of the company last summer. After launching at YC's demo day, the start-up found itself courted by a number of investors, which helped secure the more than $1 million in funding.
"We're focused on being a marketplace for friendly people sharing rides," said Jason Shen, co-founder of RideJoy, in an interview with me. Note the name is not Ride "Share" but Ride "Joy," which is appropriate given Shen's goals for making the rides more comfortable and fun.
The San Francisco-based start-up was founded by Shen and his roommates Kalvin Wang and Randy Pang. The three worked for other start-ups before they decided to join forces and focus on helping people get to places and enjoy the rides at the same time, or at least be comfortable with the people they're sharing rides with. Not surprisingly, the three shared the same not-so-optimal experiences trying to find rides in areas they were traveling. Not to mention, sharing rides is far more affordable than traveling alone.
"People are turning to their community to share resources in a more sustainable manner," said Shen.
Since launching in September 2011, Ridejoy now has about 1,000 rides being offered, touching 300 cities up and down the West Coast. The average ride is about $30 to $40 and the driver offering the ride pays Ridejoy about 15% of that fee.
Today, people are using Ridejoy for a number of reasons, including trips from San Francisco to Tahoe, or work commutes.
Word-of-mouth marketing is the No. 1 marketing tool for the company at the moment. To that end, the funds will be used to hire engineers and designers to create the best experience for its customers. If you join Ridejoy, according to Shen, you'll get a $1,000 credit to be used at other "clever collaborative consumption" start-ups, such as Airbnb and TaskRabbit.
Ridejoy isn't alone in this space. There are a number of competitors that have received funding. Zimride closed a $6 million Series A round last September. BlabaCar just raised $10 million in January.
(Image source: playgreen.typepad)