Ridejoy is currently a West Coast based ridesharing service that was written about in Tech Crunch, San Francisco Chronicle and KQED News. It started in the days of Burning Man '11, a life saver for many who wanted to find rides. As a startup with an open ended, friendly and comfortably attentive design, Ridejoy allows one of the more fulfilling user life experiences yet in terms of ridesharing.
Being one among Ridejoy's three co-founders (the remaining two being Kalvin Wang and Randy Pang), Jason Shen was interviewed for our Hotseat. Jason Shen himself may be rather unorthodox in some of his ways. He is the author of a blog named "The Art Of Ass-Kicking", named Boston Globe Gymnast of the Year three times in a row whilst later having his rejection seeking adventures featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Jason Shen is a startup leader who doesn't balk at putting himself in the trenches in the name of self-discovery and a good lesson to boot.
With this, we start an interview.
How exacting or demanding was the process like to secure all that startup funding?
Fundraising is always a challenge. We were fortunate to have the backing of Y Combinator and they signed in around demo dates to kick start our fundraising process. It took about eight weeks total, and for the first half of it it was really hard. We weren’t really getting much success. I think we had a small investment but not much else. But somewhere around that four week mark that really turned around and things started to look a lot better for us. It’s hard to know exactly what it is, we changed our pitch¸ tons of different people got new introductions.
It was hard as me and Kalvin were doing most of it. But we learned a lot from it certainly, one of the lessons being how to handle uncertainty and ambiguity. Because people give you all kinds of advice, and we were getting both advice from both sides of the table. You know, one really smart person will tell you one thing and one really smart person will tell you the exact opposite. And you had to decide, what you’re gonna do. That’s something that happens every day in a startup.
Considering the presence of other ridesharing services in the West Coast, does Ridejoy plan to attract a particular niche following?
Ridesharing is a really nascent market. Most people don’t know what it is. Most people aren’t doing it. So for us, we really see ourselves trying to open up rideshare to a new market, to a broader audience.
We just released some new features related to safety and verification. There's ID verification and the new background checks that you can do with our service now. We're the first ridesharing service to facilitate that, both of those features together.
That's exciting because there's a lot of people out there who I think would be open to doing ridesharing, especially on the West Coast. We're a very open community. Good people, good trusting people who want to help others, who see the need... but there's a little bit of uncertainty there with the other person, and these new features, this new ID verification, this new optional background check really removes some of that uncertainty.
So we're really just excited about opening up ridesharing to a whole new audience of people.
Aside from Burning Man, which months or events bring the highest spike of active or completed rides to Ridejoy? I know it hasn't been a year yet, so it's kind of a weird question.
Rideshare is somewhat seasonal. One spike was Thanksgiving, a lot of people going home for Thanksgiving. Again, smaller high impact spike for the winter break. There's some travel period. Then there's winter, a lot of winter is a little bit subdued.
And then there's summer, there's a lot of festivals, there's a lot of road trips. So it kind of peaks back up. Summer is a pretty active time.
In terms of very specific days, Thanksgiving was a big spike for us. But in terms of generally, the summer is generally a more frequent time for people to take trips and to share rides.
Are there any applications that will make it easier to access Ridejoy away from a desktop computer?
We are building a mobile app, an iPhone app that will be released later this summer. It's not out in the stores yet. We're pretty excited about that. I think that's gonna open, again make it a lot easier because when you're sharing rides you're often on the go when you're planning and coordinating that. So that's something that we're pretty excited about.
Ideally, how do you see the user base of Ridejoy growing within the next 2 years?
Our ultimate goal is to bring ridesharing to the entire country, and perhaps beyond but really making it something that's convenient and available and a viable form of transportation.
So, how long it takes? It's hard to know. In 2 years, I think we would love to have significant traction in major metro areas across America. All the big cities and sort of that surrounding area there's a lot of travel happening.
In America today, there's 2.3 billion long distance trips happening each year. Driving trips, that's like 6 million a day. That's a lot of travelling. And 76% of those trips are happening with one person in the car. So there's just so much space available to open up this market and have new people using rideshare.
What’s the most unusual user testimonial about Ridejoy. Because I’ve seen the testimonial video, maybe I should just take from that or maybe I should take it from you.
Sure, there are so many stories that are happening everyday on Ridejoy and that’s sort of what’s so great about it. Obviously Burning Man had some great stories. One that comes to mind right now is a woman named Linda. She’s 52, she’s a little bit older so you don’t think of her as a target market for rideshare but there she was signing up for a service. She had a dog. She booked a ride that was pretty full so there were four people in a car, they stopped a lot along the way to let the dog run around in a dog park and take bathroom breaks.
We had a safety checklist. Take a photo of people’s IDs, and the driver’s license plate and send that to somebody. So she was doing all those things. She was out there using this service, and she liked that we had all these things for her.
That really says to me that ridesharing is for everybody, it’s not just something that’s for cool young hip kids. It’s something for everybody, including grandmothers.
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