RidePal launches a Google Shuttle for all of us

Bambi Francisco Roizen · May 2, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/265e

At Greenstart Demo Day, RidePal announces Solar City as premium customer

Google's Shuttle is one of the more enviable perks the search giant offers its employees traveling from San Francisco to Mountain View and other locations. Not only are the rides free, they're WiFi enabled. 

Now other companies can offer such a fringe benefit to their employees with the help of RidePal, a San Francisco-based start-up founded by former Googler Nathalie Criou, who rode the Google Shuttle for five years. 

RidePal is part of the latest Greenstart class of start-ups launching Wednesday in front of some 200 investors at Greenstart's Demo Day, held in San Francisco. RidePal is one of the many companies emerging to take advantage of the crowd-aggregating trend that's really cutting across industries to help more cost-effectively balance supply and demand. In this case, RidePal is using complex algorithms to aggregate demand for rides in order to better utilize transportation. 

Criou is no stranger to complex algorithms, having worked at Google's Admob. Her team also consists of Ward Thomas, who is an ex-Bauer project manager. Bauer is the company that put Google's shuttle program together.

"If you don't live next to a Bart or Cal station, it's very hard to commute [especially across cities]," said Criou, in an interview. But offering bus services can be expensive for small and large companies alike. A 15 to 18 seater bus can run $10,000 a month, said Crio. Even if you fill the bus with 15 people for a round-trip commute 20 days out of the month, there's still a lot of idle time. Add on top of this cost a logistics team to help manage the buses and routes, offering this kind of perk can be an expensive proposition.  

But in the competitive and cutthroat environment, particularly in Silicon Valley, where providing perks is often critical to attract employees, companies may not have any choice but pay the expense.  

RidePal can help companies with that expense by shaving off about 50% to 60% of the cost, depending on the plan they choose. RidePal offers companies three plans they can then offer to their employees for free or subsidized. 

The first plan is a pay-per-ride plan. This is good for companies that have scattered employees. The second plan is a pay-per-seat plan, designed for companies with a concentration of employees in a particular area. The third plan allows companies to choose either the per-seat or per-ride rate. There's also a subscription option for the third plan, should the employer want to provide additional perks to employees, like allowing them to get reimbursed for emergency rides. These plans all vary in price, depending on multiple factors, including distance.

A typical cost for a per-ride plan from San Francisco to Mountain View could be $10. For a round trip plan, that's $20 a day, or $100 per week. If a company pays for 15 employees, that's only $1500 a week, or $4000 a month vs renting a bus for $10,000 a month. 

Additionally, RidePal offers companies a lot of flexibility. If a company just wants to subsidize the plan and not pay in full, RidePal can keep track of the services and usage and bill both the company and employee separately. Employees can get a card to keep track of their usage and they get access to a RidePal account online to buy more rides.   

RidePal doesn't own any buses. Rather it rents them from Black Tie Transporation and El Camino Trailways. At the moment, RidePal doesn't get any discounts, because the team is focusing on aggregating demand, said Criou. They'll work on the supply side of the equation once they hit critical mass.

As part of Greenstart's Demo Day, RidePal is also announcing that it just landed Solar City as a premium customer. Solar City signed up for a per-seat for 90 to 180 days. 

(Image source: graphics8.nytimes)

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder Vator, Managing Partner - Vator Investment Club; Former Columnist/correspondent Dow Jones MarketWatch; Business anchor CBS affiliate KPIX

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Angel group/VC

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Greenstart is an accelerator program providing a fast runway to success for entrepreneurs addressing the energy challenge at the intersection of cleantech and IT.  Greenstart provides seed funding, mentoring, and connections with fellow entrepreneurs and investors in order to give startups an advantage in launching the cleantech ideas of tomorrow.



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Provide a flexible, social, enjoyable and eco-friendly commute through time-shared wi-fi enabled shuttles.

Businesses or riders only pay for the capacity they need.

Riders get convenient commuting options and put their commute time to use. RidePal makes commuters happier.

Companies can extend their recruiting range, better retain employees and increase productivity. There is a diminushing return after a few buses, which can be reduced if buses are shared.

Also the more buses the more overhead in managing the program. Google has a full time team of several people to manage the program. For other companies, this was the reason why they dropped the program.

Transportation companies achieve more revenue and efficient utilization of their vehicles.

Market Size

Total Addressable market in the US is $1bn in revenue across all top 20 markets (> $500M in profit) -

We believe that there is also an opportunity internationally

Other trends that are helpful (see LA deep dive in uploaded documents, private space)

  • Companies organized in clusters (usually by vertical)
  • Residential areas organized in clusters too (societal change, people tend to gather up with like-minded people, similar education background, similar professional aptitude, etc...)
  • outdated public transportation networks and very expensive to adapt. Not matching current commuting patterns
  • Huge traffic issues
  • A lot of alternative transportation models already deployed in those areas and are changing people's driving habit, showing that the idea that 'Americans just want to drive' may be no longer true
  • Prioritized market and urban areas based on these configurations, usually leading to very congested roads + total number of commuters that drive alone to work today
  • We have already received inquiries from Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles
  • Urban areas with these characteristics represent $1bn in revenue for RidePal sustainably


Customer Problem: Companies have a hard time recruiting remote top talent because of a long Commute. They pay a 20% premium on salaries to compensate, or become a high cost transportation agency to remain competitive. Commuting is the daily task most injurious to happiness for people and present serious health risks. This forces people to make suboptimal personal and professional decisions.


Product/Services: RidePal pools demand across companies for shared buses with a turnkey solution. Using real-time ridership data, its route planning technology keeps the routes relevant and efficient for both riders and transportation companies. Social features personalize the experience and build tight communities around each shuttle. Ancillary services organized around RidePal hubs and buses increase loyalty and profitability.


Sales/Marketing Strategy: Seed: direct to Premium Plan companies as anchor  to cover Bus Minimums – neighboring companies on Professional Plan to ride along. There is therefore no need for companies to collaborate, they sign up with RidePal to buy seats or Rides as a professional plan, and Premium can create routes (and easily share cost with employeesm later further discounting themselves as they accept to share their shuttles). Create pull among Riders. Scale: Viral nature of product, HR  outsourcing/recruiting firms.  Distribution via WageWorks and CommuterChecks, on-bus branding, online advertising, local radio, word of mouth, online and social advertising and earned media.



Nathalie Criou

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Co-Founder and CEO of RidePal - Google Shuttles for the rest of us