From carpool to deadpool: Ridejoy’s startup journey

In spring 2011, Kalvin, Randy, and Jason, friends and roommates, decided to work together. We had shared passions for travel, connecting people (IRL!), and making the world a better place, so when we came across the existing universe of carpooling online, it seemed to have huge potential.

Others were dubious. Y Combinator partner Justin Kan told us to hire 20 drivers in SF, where we lived, and start a taxi company instead. (Sidecar stealth-launched 6 months later, and Lyft shortly followed.) Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar and subsequently of carpooling-network GoLoco, gave us several reasons from experience why we’d fail. (Thanks Robin! :) )

But we decided to go for it anyway. We knew many others had tried before us, but we believed by building a far superior product, and being creative about signing up users, we could turn long-distance carpooling from a niche activity to a modern mode of transportation.

We also saw Craigslist’s rideshare sections, and bet that the half million anonymous and sometimes sketchy rides posted every year represented “demand by proxy” for millions of verified rides on Ridejoy.

What Happened? I Saw You in Vanity Fair?

First, we started with rides to Burning Man 2011. Flush with optimism (and a steady stream of signups from Craigslist refugees), we later enabled tens of thousands of friendly ridesharers to carpool long distances, mostly up and down the West Coast from Vancouver to Portland to San Francisco to Los Angeles, but also all across the country. (Atlanta to New Orleans, woo!)

But while we did succeed at growing steadily (25-30%/mo), creating an Apple-featured iPhone app, building a userbase of 30k+, we never discovered demand in the way that VC-backed startups need to. (We now no longer believe the market exists in the US, but of course, perhaps we just couldn’t find it.)

This mean that when Craigslist C&D’d us (they didn’t want our users linking to their Ridejoy ride offers or requests), we still had almost half our users coming from Craigslist. This spurred us to reconsider what we’d learned so far, and we eventually decided to halt instead of burning the remaining half of our (investors’) money.

Way Above Average!

Since we’re publishing this for our tech-centric followers, you’re surely familiar with startups failing. Here’s a few common questions, and our uncommon answers.

So you ran out of money?
- Unusually, we ended up returning the remaining half of our raise. As one of our investors said, “Well, a 50% return is way better than the average internet startup!” (You’ve got to be extra optimistic to invest in two-sided marketplaces with several variables…)

Why didn’t you pivot?
- We did explore a ton of other ideas, and other options like being acqui-hired, but none of them felt right to us at the time. That’s the short answer, anyway.

What’s happening to the Ridejoy service?
- Our investors have been very gracious, so we’re able to leave the Ridejoy website and iPhone app up and running for a while, until it starts declining in usage or requires too much maintenance.

Did the founders break up?
- Nope. We started Ridejoy from our apartment in San Francisco and continued happily living together throughout our journey. We agreed to end things together. We’re now spread out geographically, but are grateful to remain close friends.

Thanks, Thanks, and Ever Thanks!

Overall, we had a great experience, we’re glad we had the opportunity. (Thanks YC!)

If you used Ridejoy, thank you. If you sent us love, even more so. Hope you had a smooth ride, a great conversation, and a Driver/Passenger With Snacks!

PS – If you have a story about using Ridejoy as a service, we’d love to hear it. We’re collecting user stories here(Deadline December 31st, 2013)

Psst: We're looking for our first engineering hire!
Refer a hire and you both get Ridejoy's Ultimate Collaborative Consumption Package!
$1000 credit for Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Grubwithus, Getaround, RelayRides, Skillshare, or more.

The Great Collaborative Consumption Roadtrip: An Interview with Ryan Dwyer

Ryan Dwyer is one of those rare people who’s so full of life that it’s severely infectious to us normal human beings. (For evidence, see picture below. We’re usually all startup curmudgeons, but just look at us! Grinning from ear to ear in natural light!)

Ryan has been a driver in our community since the beginning – and we’re so lucky to have someone this enthusiastic and passionate as part of the Ridejoy family.

We really can’t help but feel like mother hens now that Ryan, a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, is embarking on a three-month, 12,000 mile roadtrip around the United States in a VW Westalia named Bernie. He’ll be writing extensively about his trip on his fantastic blog, Travel Socially and  more specifically, will be utilizing collaborative consumption networks (like a certain Ridejoy!) in order to complete his trip in a social, sustainable and wallet-friendly way.

He’s aiming to spend under $1,000 for the whole trip, or an average of $11/day. That’s quite the tall order, but if anyone can do it, Ryan can! (Fun fact: we considered titling this post: “RyanJoy,” but I was ultimately outvoted.)

Our hero, Ryan at Ridejoy World HQ prior to his grand adventure. 

We recently interviewed our intrepid adventurer before he set off. He’s already a veteran couchsurfer and ridesharer, so we can’t wait to see what this roadtrip yields for him!

Why are you going on this roadtrip? 

My original reason was wanderlust: I just finished college, and I wanted to travel the country on a motorcycle. But I realized that purpose was selfish and wasteful. I’ve decided to go on this roadtrip to explore the possibilities that are available using social media and collaborative consumption services to share resources that people aren’t using. I am going on a sort of collaborative, green, social road trip, taking advantage of stuff that is already there and is available through new websites like Ridejoy and Couchsurfing.

Traveling around the United States in a Volkswagen Westfalia will allow me to try out different websites, collaborative consumption networks and methods of interacting with people to complete my trip in a less wasteful way. Not only will I be meeting people, I’ll be sharing resources with them, sharing costs and sharing experiences that would have never been possible unless I already knew people in every city around the US. But now you can find trustworthy people online who have similar interests and might be willing to share a bed, food, or a ride. It’s like having an extended family everywhere you go. I want to show that you can travel in a way that is cheaper, less consumptive, and more adventurous than in the past.

Tell us about yourself. What’s your story? 

I just graduated from college this past May. I got my degree in Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno, I also dipped my toes in philosophy and sustainability. I plan to go to grad school for Social Psychology at some point, but in the meantime, I’m exploring different options and interests that I have. I worked my way through school, so I want to enjoy myself for a while. But I understand that this type of lifestyle can be very wasteful, so I am trying to relax responsibly. I love to travel, I love technology, I love interacting with people and doing new, fun, exciting things, so right now, I’m trying to combine all those different interests into this new project: traveling around the country using social media and collaborative consumption. The internet has changed human culture. We have the opportunity to change it for the better, and I want to help figure out how we can achieve that. New technologies are changing our culture, the way we travel and how we experience the world; I want to show how we can use these tools to live better and less wasteful lives.

What’s your experience with collaborative consumption? 

I think my first introduction was using Couchsurfing. I went to Europe for three months and when I got there, I realized that if I was going to travel the traditional way, I would only last a couple of weeks. So I found Couchsurfing and started staying with people – they host you for free and you just have to be a cool guest (and hopefully return the favor by hosting other people when you return home).  It’s a cultural exchange with a great community of people who love to share and are excited about traveling and want to show you their city.

Taking advantage of unused resources like an open couch seems obvious, but it has only recently become safe and realistic because of websites like Couchsurfing. Since then, I’ve been using Ridejoy to share rides. It makes sense to share rides and share housing and other things that people already have. It makes sense because everyone wins. People can get extra money for things they already have, you can cut costs by sharing things you need. Since Couchsurfing, I’ve been watching new websites start up that offer unique opportunities to collaboratively consume. I’m interested to see what the limits of collaborative consumption might be.

Tell me about the route you’re going to take. 

I started from Reno and I’m here in San Francisco now, so that’s my first stop. I’ll head up the California and Oregon coast and head into Portland, go up to Seattle and from Seattle, I’m going to be traveling across the north of the country. I’m going to stop in Yellowstone National Park, see Mount Rushmore, go to Chicago and from there, I’m going to go to Maine and be there in time to see the leaves change color.

That’ll be mid-October. From that point, I’m going to start heading south, down the East Coast and stop in all the major cities: Boston, Philadelphia, New York and make it down to Florida by mid-November, so as the weather’s getting colder everywhere else, I’ll be enjoying the sun and the beach! From Florida, I’m going to go around the Gulf Coast to New Orleans and across Texas through the southwest and probably end up in San Diego before heading back up the California coast and ending in Reno.

Are you nervous at all? 

Not really. I’m really flexible, so I can roll with the punches. Whatever happens, I’m OK with it. I have a bus that I can sleep in, so worst case scenario, I’ll just sleep on the side of the road somewhere. I like meeting new people, so I’m not nervous about that. I just don’t want my trip to be a waste. Despite using collaborative consumption services, I will be using lots of fuel. I hope that the insights from the trip will outweigh the cost in used up resources. I want to raise awareness that we can use less and be equally happy. It’s a simple truth that can be hard to adopt. But if it is embraced, it could change the world.

What are you hoping to gain from doing this? 

A lot. There are multiple reasons I’m doing this trip, many different elements that go into it. I want to be the type of person who actually did something he liked with his life. I want to take a risk and work on something innovative. In general, I just hope to have a new experience, try something new that I don’t think has really been done before, see how it works. If I can bring a little attention to the sphere of collaborative consumption, I want to highlight the new opportunities that we have to share our excess.  As well, I want to develop personal skills like writing and publishing. I plan to write a blog about traveling socially. My blog will break things down and hopefully make it a little more accessible for other people who might be interested in using social media and collaborative consumption networks.

You should all be going to Ryan’s blog, Travel Socially, right-gosh-darn-now to read up on his adventures and get saucy (and by “saucy,” I mean “super useful”) tips on roadtripping and how to get the best of out of your collaborative consumption networks.

Psst: We're looking for our first engineering hire!
Refer a hire and you both get Ridejoy's Ultimate Collaborative Consumption Package!
$1000 credit for Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Grubwithus, Getaround, RelayRides, Skillshare, or more.

Share Rides and Spread Joy – The Story Behind Ridejoy’s T-Shirt

Share Rides and Spread Joy T Shirt

Our community manager Margot showing off our famous "Share Rides and Spread Joy" Shirt

In 1939, the United Kingdom had just entered World War II and its leaders realized that it would be important to maintain morale in the event of an invasion. They knew that people need in uncertain times is a strong, confident and reassuring message to keep in mind. And so the government created a series of posters to rally the country, including one with the words “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Some 70+ years later in another time and place, we still encounter moments of uncertainty. We worry about the price of gas. We find ourselves stuck in Seattle with our girlfriend in SF. Everyone just seems a little grouchier than usual. We’ve got a free weekend but no car, or we’ve got a car but no travel buddy.

In times like these, a strong, confident, and reassuring messages is what we all need. And that’s why Ridejoy is proud to have the words “Share Rides and Spread Joy”, emblazoned across our company shirts. We find it lifts our spirits and the spirits of those around us, bringing a sense of collaboration and delight to all.

Note how happy everyone looks in the photo from our article in Vanity Fair. =)

Get the Shirt!

It’s such a great shirt, in fact, that we’ve decided we can’t keep it all to ourselves any longer. We’ll be offering it to the general public sometime later this fall. If you’re interested in snagging one for yourself, leave your email address and we’ll be sure to let you know!

Psst: We're looking for our first engineering hire!
Refer a hire and you both get Ridejoy's Ultimate Collaborative Consumption Package!
$1000 credit for Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Grubwithus, Getaround, RelayRides, Skillshare, or more.

User Joy: Boat Rides & Family Vacations

Nothing warms our hearts faster than hearing about users who have had joyful journeys on Ridejoy. But when two wonderful stories popped up right after one another, we had to turn on the AC to keep from overheating. With the launch of our new iPhone app, we thought it’d be cool to share some of the ways Ridejoy users are sharing rides and spreading joy with our service.

Enjoy!

Will gets a car (and boat) ride to New Orleans

Will Brown is a recent graduate of Claremont McKenna College and is traveling the country using collaborative consumption services like Airbnb, Grubwithus, and Ridejoy! He’s gone on 4 rideshares thus far, including one on Ridejoy where he posted a ride request from Atlanta to New Orleans. Here’s what happened next:

Within three hours I had an email from Ridejoy informing me that they had found a match with someone who was headed my direction. And that’s how I met Jessica. She’s 26 and was preparing to drive from her hometown of Greenville, SC to her current home of Austin, Texas and she was looking to split costs along the way. I was really impressed with Ridejoy for two reasons: its quick response time and that they matched me–who posted a ride from Atlanta to New Orleans–with Jessica whose starting and ending points were both different than my own.

Read more about the trip and how Will ends up on a sailboat and in his blog post: I’m On A Boat (and How I Got There With Ridejoy)

Alexandra coordinates a family trip with Ridejoy

Alexandra Samuel is the director of the Social + Interactive Media Center at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the cofounder of a social media consultancy and blogs for publications like the Harvard Business Review. She’s also a mom raising two kids in Vancouver. When the family decided to roadtrip down to San Francisco this summer, they realized that it’d be nice to take the train home to save time. But then, how would the car make it back?

In the course of looking for one-way car rentals, I came across the phenomenon of “drive away” services, which could provide a driver to take our car back to Seattle while we took Amtrak. Cost: $500.

I decided to check for independent drive-away offers on Craigslist. Mixed in with the “ride wanted” and “ride offered” ads on Craigslist, I saw the occasional request for one-way drivers. And appended to one ad, I saw the intriguing line, “contact me on Ridejoy”.

That’s how I discovered Ridejoy, a ride-sharing site that matches drivers and riders in 790 cities across North America. Ridejoy cross-posts to Craigslist, so you still get the benefit of Craigslist’s rideshare board, but you get a much better search and matching tool.

Ridejoy has opened up a whole new horizon for family vacations. Now that we know it’s possible to do a one-way drive, I can see us organizing future vacations throughout Western Canada and the U.S., or even across the continent.

Learn more about how Alexandra coordinated her family vacation in her blog post: Take a One-Way Roadtrip with Ridejoy

Psst: We're looking for our first engineering hire!
Refer a hire and you both get Ridejoy's Ultimate Collaborative Consumption Package!
$1000 credit for Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Grubwithus, Getaround, RelayRides, Skillshare, or more.

Arranging No-Hassle Rides!

Since rolling out the first version of ride arrangements in October, we’ve helped thousands of people share trips and learned tons in the process. Based on feedback from our stellar community, we’ve streamlined our arrangement system and made it 10x simpler to book and pay for rides on Ridejoy!

Our improved, no-hassle process lets either the driver or the passenger make the first move in confirming the ride and should make things much more clear for both sides. And remember, you can only get reviewed on rides that are booked through Ridejoy

Check out the video at the top! Continue reading

Psst: We're looking for our first engineering hire!
Refer a hire and you both get Ridejoy's Ultimate Collaborative Consumption Package!
$1000 credit for Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Grubwithus, Getaround, RelayRides, Skillshare, or more.