I hate taxis.
Hate ‘em. They’re sticky, smelly, hot when it’s hot outside, cold when it’s freezing. The drivers are sketchy. They are cash only. You have to fight with 10 other people for a ride.
Overall, it’s an unpleasant experience.
New start-up Uber is looking to change that.
They are a mobile-app-based on-demand upscale transportation service.
And here are the main features:
- No “taxis” – the cars are unmarked and NICE – always clean, too.
- The drivers are sharply dressed.
- When you order a ride, the app tells you exactly how far away the driver is – and gives you the driver’s name. (For instance, when I placed an order for our ride to their DC launch party yesterday, we immediately got a ping saying Ezra was 3 minutes away. And dang, Ezra arrived in 3 minutes!)
- The entire system is cash-less. The app stores your credit card info and charges it accordingly, including tip. There are no transactions with the drivers.
- Passengers and drivers rate each other on a 1-to-5 scale, helping keep the system in balance.
It costs a bit more than a taxi. One estimate I heard said about 1.5 times as much. However, there are clear benefits in Uber. It’s definitely an upscale image for a midscale price. You can order easily. There is virtually no waiting outside in the cold, hot, rain, snow, etc, etc.
I see it being used by women late at night, executives trying to cut costs (and who isn’t?), techies – a whole host of audiences.
And while it officially launched last night in DC, Washington is the fastest-growing market for Uber, which now has cars on the ground in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and even Paris. They are looking to grow fast, opening 1-2 new markets every month. It’s an aggressive growth pattern, but it could just work for them.
There are also countless opportunities available for them, if they wished to go down certain roads, so to speak. Targeted advertising, special packages (like how hotels have Honeymoon Specials, etc.), key partnerships with college campuses and so many more.
This is definitely a company to keep an eye on over the next year, as they’ve “tech-ed up” a decidedly low-tech segment.