We all have somewhere to go, the question is: how do we get there? Services like Zipcar are becoming more popular every day, but how can we utilize all the cars that are already out there? A rideshare service called Zimride may just be the answer. Building on the power of social networking, Zimride is a community-powered transportation solution where members can share vacant spots in their own cars or find rides from others who are going the same way.
This not only reduces resource consumption by keeping cars off the road, but also saves riders money and enables them to forge new friendships and expand their networks. I caught up with co-founder and COO John Zimmer to find out a bit more about Zimride.
Zimride was inspired by seeing how people in Zimbabwe solve their transportation through ride sharing, can you tell me a bit more about that?
On a college trip to Zimbabwe, Logan Green saw locals sharing rides in privately run minivan taxis called “tro tros.” He was struck by how a country with so few resources was able to create an inexpensive, reliable and community-based transportation option. This was in contrast to the expensive (to operate) public transportation in America. Upon returning home to traffic-crazy Los Angeles, Logan was inspired to create a new form of transportation.
Who is the typical Zimride user?
Zimride is a social, cost-effective, and fun way to get around for everyone from seniors in high school to senior citizens. Don’t we all have grandparents who have recently facebook friended us?
It seems you are mostly focused on schools, why is that? Are students just more open to this kind of thing?
Zimride started out focused on schools because students care about saving money, maintaining a social lifestyle and are typically early adopters of technology. We were college students building a service for college students. Staff and faculty however soon realized the benefits of Zimride and quickly joined to share their commute. This pushed us to better understand staff and faculty needs and helped us build a service inclusive of all ages. The user interface was simplified and became much more intuitive. Zimride is now working with 100 university and corporate partners including Harvard, Stanford, JetBlue, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Intuit.
Have you had any unexpected success in networks you did not expect?
Yes, we have seen networks such as Wisconsin La Crosse, James Madison University and PricewaterhouseCoopers grow incredibly fast where there was very little carpooling previously! Often our partners are shocked at the participation levels of over 20% at these institutions.
How does the payment part work, is it done through the site or as a cash transaction between the rider and passenger?
As of now, payments are a cash exchange in the car. We know… it’s old school, and while it has done the trick for the past century or two we are preparing to roll out a payment feature to make it easy and less awkward for drivers to get paid!
What are the biggest challenges you face?
The biggest challenge is changing behavior (single occupancy driving) and getting the message out that Zimriding can be more convenient, cost-effective and fun than driving alone. We are making great strides with 100 partners signed up and fantastic testimonials of new best friends made, jobs found and even lovers formed from Zimrides.
Have increasing gas prices led to more user signups?
Definitely — rising gas prices drive a faster change of behavior among our communities. It’s a win-win situation — Zimriders make new friends, save money and reduce their stress all while minimizing traffic congestion and reducing their carbon footprint.
How integral is social networking to your business?
Social networking is integral to Zimride. The benefits of ridesharing are many — travelers find affordable rides, drivers share the high cost of gas, and everyone enjoys the benefits of less traffic and lower pollution levels. Yet the popularity of ridesharing has been limited. Previous services have failed to provide a social context, and as a result they have received a lukewarm reception. Facebook and the concept of online social networks have changed the game. Zimride embraces ridesharing as a social activity and provides a rich social context for users to connect with each other. This approach and our strategy of building trusted networks for schools and companies is the key to gaining high levels of adoption.
Zimride integrates with Facebook and Twitter to make it fun and easy for users to share the seats in their car or find a ride. On Zimride, participants create profiles that show their favorite in-car music, radio stations and even smoking preferences to ensure an enjoyable ride. Zimride’s site empowers individuals to create social, sustainable and convenient transportation.
Zimride received money from the Facebook Fund and was the winner of last year’s OG25 Green Business Start-up Competition at Opportunity Green. How did that affect your business?
Winning the OG25 Green Start-Up Competition at Opportunity Green last year was a big shot in the arm. We were extremely honored with so many other fantastic companies there. Winning the competition provided greater visibility for our mission and helps to build more credibility among our partners.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs looking to launch a business?
Progress comes from passionate perseverance when everyone is telling you it can’t be done. Be passionate and work your butt off. Learn from your mistakes along the way and never back down (also exercising helps).
This post is part of an ongoing series in collaboration with Opportunity Green, highlighting innovations in sustainable design and business.