Tripda Makes a Play for the Road Trip Ridesharing Market

Have we been looking at the ridesharing scene from the wrong angle? The team at Tripda thinks so.

Rather than go after the for-hire car service market with aggressive players such as Uber, Tripda in New York focused their attention on simply connecting folks who want to share costs on road trips.

Listing a planned journey on Tripda’s website or app is comparable to posting a note on a community ride board, something frequently done by college students, says Adi Vaxman, CEO and co-founder. “We’re a marketplace matching people offering trips and people looking to ride the same way,” she says.

In November, the startup began offering its service in the United States, letting people find others to fill seats in personal vehicles and process payments between them for travel expenses. “It’s an opportunity for them to save money,” Vaxman says.

Tripda debuted its marketplace in May in Brazil, where co-founders Eduardo Prota and Pedro Meduna operate in São Paolo. Vaxman and co-founder Joe McFarlane head the New York team. The company has about 75 people on staff between the US and Brazil, Vaxman says. Tripda is available in 12 countries including Argentina, Chile, India, Columbia, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, and Uruguay.

Vaxman say Tripda is backed by venture capital firm Rocket Internet, but she did not disclose how much funding her company has received.
For now, Tripda is free to join, and drivers and passengers determine the price for each journey. “We have a scale that shows how fair the price they are setting is compared to other people and the length of the trip,” Vaxman says. If someone posts plans for a 100 mile trip and requests $200 from passengers, it would likely display in red, she says. Rates that are more favorable would display in green.

There are no definitive plans on how, but Tripda may look to generate revenue from its usage. “At some point in the future, I think we will be taking a fee from the transactions,” Vaxman says.

Members can search for each other based on point of origin, destination, and departure date. Connecting with strangers for a road trip could be off-putting for some, so Tripda requires members to login through their Facebook accounts and share their profile details. This also lets members see if they have any friends in common with their potential travel partners. There is also an option that allows women to only offer rides to other women.

Vaxman says Tripda further verifies members through banking information since they must enter such details in order to process payments for their trips.

Users can rate each other after sharing a road trip. The service also displays how many trips members have completed and how long they have been using Tripda. Prior to traveling together, users can also message each other within the app, Vaxman says. The startup is also introducing community badges, showing the alma maters of university students, she says, which would be displayed once the users’ college e-mail address is verified.

Vaxman says though ridesharing is typically associated with for-hire services such as Uber and Lyft, Tripda thinks it can shake things up by connecting people who already plan to drive to the same destinations.

This type of idea has been tried before, Vaxman says, by Zimride—Lyft’s original service, which it sold in 2013 to car rental company Enterprise. Though Lyft changed gears to focus on an app that finds nearby drivers for short trips, Vaxman sees potential for the prior concept. “When they started, the sharing economy wasn’t as strong in the US as it is now,” she says. “People weren’t used to the idea. I don’t think that four years ago, we would be able to do what we’re doing.”

The sharing economy and car services, however, have run into regulatory troubles over licensing, fees, and other legal issues. New York, for example, has been a legal battleground for some would-be rivals to the local taxi industry and certain taxi hailing apps.

In response, Uber changed its plans for this city, offering only black car and other select services. Some other rivals simply do not operate in New York at all. Meanwhile New York startup Bandwagon does offer its taxi fare sharing app in the city, by working within the local taxi commission’s guidelines.

Uber and Lyft face a different fight in Boston, where the city council debated whether to require their drivers to pay the same fees as taxi drivers and follow the same regulations.

Vaxman does not believe Tripda, which she says is not trying to be a taxi service, will run into regulatory issues—but her company has only just started offering service in the US. “Time will tell,” she says. “We’re not providing for-hire or transportation services.”

She would like to see Tripda become as ubiquitous for sharing road trips as using Google Maps to find bus or rail routes. To further grow the company, Vaxman says a funding round may be in the offing for Tripda in 2015. “The fact that BlaBlaCar out of Europe raised $100 million is very helpful to me right now,” she says.

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