The Buzz

RideConnect disrupts the ridesharing industry.

Stories Eli Dupin
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In an age where using a rideshare service like Lyft and Uber is commonplace, finding a company that has the potential to disrupt the way we use those services is a welcome solution. While it’s convenient in big bustling cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as Orange County, something about calling a stranger to pick you up can feel like a bit of a gamble in terms of safety, cleanliness, etc. Thankfully, most drivers are great conversationalists, have clean cars, and undergo safety-approved security checks (if you’re using Lyft). And when you find a truly great driver, how amazing and convenient would it be to be able to call them directly for pickups whenever you needed to go somewhere?

RideConnect, founded in 2015 by Santosh Krishnan, addresses some of the challenges we face when using Uber or Lyft, including safety, building trust and good working relationships with drivers, and being able to pre-negotiate rates that serve riders and drivers alike.

Krishnan got the idea for RideConnect while waiting for a cab one night in the pouring rain in New York City. “Heading to the East side for the evening often [meant] waiting forever to get a cab back to the West side, especially around 4 a.m.,” Krishnan says. “Often cabs would only [take you] if you were going where they wanted.” Krishnan and his friends were frustrated by the near impossibility of finding a cab that night, when a perfectly normal looking Toyota pulled up and the driver rolled down the window. “Twenty dollars anywhere in Manhattan,” he said. That was the aha moment.

“Without even thinking, we hopped in and were off,” Krishnan says. “It was only on the way that I started feeling a bit uneasy. I don’t know who this is. I have no idea if he’s going to harm me or not, and frankly, I didn’t give it much thought before accepting his offer so readily. This was not a good situation.” That onset of reasonable fear really got Krishnan thinking.

“What if we could have an app where you push a button and someone from your trusted private network were to come to your aid?” Krishnan joined forces with Allan Pichardo, and together they began development of RideConnect. “That’s when we turned our focus on transportation and how to facilitate it within a trusted private network,” Krishnan says.

Doing field research and utilizing both Uber and Lyft, Krishnan noted patterns where he’d request a ride and no drivers were nearby or available. Over the course of several rides, he would connect with drivers he felt comfortable with and they’d exchange numbers. In the event he couldn’t find a ride? He’d give those drivers a call. “From that experience, it became clear that in many cases, even if a driver is not in your vicinity, the prospect of return business will motivate the driver to be available for you when you need a ride,” Krishnan says. “As long as you can inform the driver with enough time for him to come to your area, the driver will consider your business over the hope of business from someone else.”

Knowing that the world we live in is full of potential dangers, RideConnect is intended to offer users the tools to help them make smarter decisions before getting into a stranger’s car with its private ridesharing platform. “The intent is to enable the rider to selectively allow drivers into their network so that the drivers meet certain minimum criteria.” The private network app gives riders the option to select criteria they need met in order to feel safe, giving them control of who picks them up. “With these features, riders have the power to only get rides with trusted drivers and can even insist that these drivers pass certain background checks or produce certain evidence of their qualifications before they allow them into their private community.”

In the gig economy, making a profit is very rare with the exception of companies like Airbnb. Eliminating a middleman by delivering services to both sides of user and service provider is critical to seeing real tangible profits. “We believe that for us to make money, we need to facilitate transportation between those who want it and those who provide it, while giving both sides options in terms of pricing, privacy, and security,” Krishnan says. “Instead of preventing both sides from transacting with one another, RideConnect encourages it.”

One of the major concerns of RideConnect at present is enforced background checks for drivers. Krishnan hopes in time, that can be rectified. Like all rideshare services, safety is paramount, and there is still a lot that needs to be worked out to make it the safest alternative to taxi cabs, trains, subways, and buses.

You can find RideConnect on the App Store and Google Play rideconnect.com.

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