It seems like there’s a startup for everything to do with cars. There’s Parking Panda for finding or renting out a parking spot; Cherry for getting your car washed while you’re at the office; and GetAround for renting a car from someone nearby. GetAround launched to much fanfare last year when it won the TechCrunch Disrupt startup competition, and since then it has raised $5 million in funding and grants. So it’s no surprise that another social car service, Ridejoy, just announced that it has raised $1.3 million in seed funding. Ridejoy isn’t about renting a car near you; rather it allows people to rideshare on long trips.
Ridesharing isn’t new – people have been organizing rides through Craigslist or their social networks for years. Ridejoy’s founders Kalvin Wang, Jason Shen and Randy Pang thought the process could be streamlined, and launched the company in mid-2011. Their first project was Burning Man Rides (what they called “rides of passage”), which facilitated 1132 rides to the famed event. The service aims to simplify the ridesharing process by allowing drivers to connect with passengers for long-haul trips (50+ miles). Passengers and drivers enter details about where they’re leaving from, where they’re going, and when they need to go, and are matched up. If passengers can’t find an immediate match they can list their ride and get notified when a driver signs on. Once a driver and a passenger are matched up they can exchange details and decide on shared expenses (drivers aren’t allowed to make a profit off of rides but can share expenses like gas with passengers), and the driver has final say over whether the arrangement is accepted.
Safety is a common concern with services like this, and judging from AirBnb’s publicity woes due to renters vandalizing houses, it’s a valid one. Similar to AirBnb, Ridejoy allows users to find out information about the person they’ll be riding with, including their real names, photos, education, work, and mutual friends on Facebook (the service requires a Facebook profile to sign up). But the service also cross-posts to Craigslist, which seems to take out the social layer. They offer a safety checklist which includes (one would think) common sense tips like picking people up in public places and taking a photo of a passenger’s photo ID and sending to family/friends before a ride.
“At Ridejoy, we’re passionate about changing how Americans view travel,” Wang said in a statement. “We’re designing our social ridesharing community to be friendlier and more convenient than driving alone, flying or taking the bus. Every day, we bring friends, families and long-distance lovers closer together. Thousands of drivers and passengers already use Ridejoy to safely share rides to hundreds of destinations, and we’ll use this funding to bring that experience to communities beyond the West Coast.”
Ridejoy’s seed funding was led by Freestyle Capital with participation from Start Fund, SV Angel, Founder Collective and Y Combinator.The company will use the new funding to increase design and engineering capacity, and they plan to expand beyond their West Coast presence. Short-term rentals and ridesharing are turning into a lucrative business – just ask Zipcar. Their challenge will be making sure safety issues don’t plague them like they have AirBnb, but at a certain point after the driver takes over safety is out of their hands.