Not too long ago, most people likely would have balked at the idea of sharing a ride with a total stranger — but these days, ridesharing is a massive, billion-dollar market that only promises to increase in prominence and profitability.
Currently, ridesharing is dominated by only a couple international names, Uber and Lyft being the biggest of all. However, even as these behemoths grow in size and scope, the ever-growing market is providing even more entrances for smaller rideshare startups — like yours.
It’s not too late to launch a rideshare startup. In fact, there remain a significant number of niches and oversights that remain to be addressed by your business. If you are desperate to have a rideshare enterprise of your own, here is a guide to getting started and ensuring success.
Your first step to building a ridesharing empire is to better understand what ridesharing is. Even if you’ve caught a couple Ubers, you might not have a firm grasp of what such an organization entails. After all, using a ridesharing service is different from calling a cab, and it is much different than carpooling with friends or co-workers.
Before smartphones, ridesharing was an informal institution that concerned connecting drivers with passengers, like carpooling but amongst strangers. The situation was mutually beneficial: Drivers gained a bit of gas money (and perhaps access to carpool lanes), and passengers got where they needed to go faster than they could with public transit.
Ridesharing services providers, like Uber and Lyft, organized these arrangements, creating convenient systems that ensured swift access for users and certain payment for drivers. Thus, ridesharing morphed from occasional and casual to rigid and formal.
These days, ridesharing is more than a convenient way to get around; it is an immense market that has created millions of unskilled jobs. While governments hardly paid attention to ridesharing initiatives in the past, today rideshare services are subject to intense scrutiny and regulation for the sake of making the services safe.
Undoubtedly, ridesharing regulations will only increase as the market becomes more established. Knowing the history of ridesharing is imperative for predicting its future, so it is well worth your time and effort to research ridesharing as it was then, as it is now and as it could be soon.
Research Your Market
Every area boasts a unique ridesharing market. Urban environments are easily the most saturated; not only do Uber and Lyft operate here, but you must compete with a handful of regional rideshares as well as carshares like Zipcar.
Still, it’s likely there is some kind of opening for your business — you just need to look for it. You should perform thorough market research on all your competitors, understanding their regions of operation, their audience demographics, their brand and more.
While you’re at it, you should also look into local regulations on rideshares. Most states require specialized auto insurance for ridesharing service providers, but you might also be subject to special licensing, driver background checks and similar hoops to jump through. You could set up a meeting with your local department of transportation to learn more.
Identify Your USP
Once you have a clear picture of your local ridesharing landscape, you can begin developing your ridesharing venture. You should start with your unique selling proposition, or USP. Also sometimes called a niche, your USP is what sets you apart from other rideshares in your area and what ensures that your organization will gain consumer attention.
There are a number of untapped USPs in ridesharing, such as:
Assistance for users with disabilities
Assistance with children
Commitment to alternative fuels
Commitment to safety
Additionally, rural areas are notably untouched by ridesharing and carsharing. If you are operating in a relatively rural zone, you might have a wide-open space to offer standard rideshare services.
Develop Your Tools
You don’t need a fleet of vehicles to launch your ridesharing service, but you do need an abundant amount of software tools. At the bare minimum, you should have a user-facing app for passengers to hail rides, and you should have a driver-facing app, so drivers can field requests and navigate roads.
Fortunately, newer ridesharing services can benefit from pre-generated ridesharing platforms, which make it easy to overlay your unique ideas on existing tools. Still, you should have a robust technology team to monitor the functionality of your various apps and develop new services as your company grows.
Marketing tools should also be a primary focus; if no one knows about your rideshare offerings, the users in your area will continue to rely on Uber or Lyft — or else continue to ignore ridesharing altogether.
To start, you can use less expensive social marketing tactics, but you should invest in advertising and other, more visible marketing solutions, like billboards and sponsorships, as funds become available.
From here, running a rideshare is similar to running any other small business. You need to evaluate your growth, make smart decisions for your organization and continue to wage war against the big guys in the industry. Over time, you can create success — but you should get started soon.