One day at the BigBig Bomb office our new upstairs neighbor, Josh, came down to see if he could borrow some WiFi. The next thing we knew, we were all hanging out on the regular. One fateful afternoon at Rio Rita he pitched us an idea and asked if we would team up with him to make it a reality and that’s how Heyride, Austin’s first ride-sharing service, was born.
In three months we completed initial design, stood up the backend service for a dual-sided marketplace, sussed-out insurance coverage for ourselves our drivers and our riders, and built an MVP version of the iOS app. Six months later we secured venture backing, established a background check pipeline for on-boarding drivers, conducted extensive user research and field testing, and officially launched the service at FunFunFun Fest.
Securing venture backing wasn’t an easy task. We regularly encountered skepticism out of concerns for passenger safety. Our thinking was that if services like AirBnb and CraigsList worked, so would this. Heyride would arguably be more safe than a taxi because we would know the person’s location at any time, out of necessity. Additionally, drivers were vetted through background checks and all users of the service would be rated and vouched for through social trust networks.
Things didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped. We soon received a cease-and-desist from the city and some of our drivers found themselves the victims of sting operations. Police officers would pose as regular people needing rides and when a driver would arrive to pick them, up they would be issued a citation for operating without a license. The ripples of our splash in Austin eventually made their way to Silicon Valley. Sidecar, a San Francisco-based ride sharing service, entered into negotiations to acquire us. A few months later the agreement was finalized.
Heyride had set off a chain of events that led to legal action against the DoT, Austinites effectively banning Uber and Lyft from the city, and the state of Texas overruling the ban because at the end of the day, politics is all about $$$.
Drivers were given the agency to set their own prices, based on our suggestion algorithms. They might decide to up their price because of their high rating, luxury car, or sparkling personality. Riders were allowed to choose who they wanted to get a ride from. Driving badges and social trust networks provided them with the context they needed to make an informed decision.
The amount of creative output and quality of work produced speaks to what a small team can accomplish when that team is composed of talented folks with a balanced skill set and who share a singular vision. A healthy dose of optimism and naivety doesn't hurt either. The entire experience was quite the…ride. 😎🚗💨