May 18, 2010

Zimride is Carpooling 2.0

Self-touted as reliable, affordable and more sustainable travel, Zimride is redefining the way we think of carpooling. The service that utilises social networking has expanded rapidly in universities in the U.S. and has started to capture the attention on Corporate America, attracting the likes of Wal-mart and Cigna to using the service.

Zimride is the brainchild of two entrepreneurs in their mid twenties, Logan Green and John Zimmer who operate the company out of Palo Alto in California. Green were inspired to set up the business after a trip to Zimbabwe, where he came across seat-sharing taxis known as tro-tros. Initially, nearby Stanford University was the test bed for the service that now operates in over 35 universities throughout the States.  The key to it's success is its usability and seamless integration with facebook, who gave the young entrepreneurs $250,000 seed money to establish itself. This has allowed Zimride to pick up where other competitors such as and have failed in the past, to create a critical mass of users. To date, Zimride has over 300,000 trusted users as is expanding rapidly. According to Zimmer, "Zimride is a fun way to share rides in their cars with friends, classmates and co-workers."

Zimride works absolutely great in colleges, where often is the case that students cannot afford a car or even struggle to pay the petrol costs of a long distance journey. As shown in the piece, it can also be a great way for old friends to meet up who haven't seen each other in a while. I know for a fact that I would get great use out of this service if it existed here in Ireland as I have to often fork out 50 euros to pay for a painful, overcrowded 4-hour train journey home at the weekends. This can be a godsend for students from the country based up in a big city as there is probably always one of their friends, classmates or co-workers making that same journey in an empty car. According to CEO Green, Zimride is "a platform for people to buy and sell seats in empty vehicles."

One of the key features of Zimride is it's feedback from people who use the service. In a similar way to ebay's structured seller rating system of user feedback, each driver is continuously vetted by the community through feedback while any potential passenger can, among other things, see who the driver is friends with and even the music preferences of the driver.

The business model works by creating a unique network for each university/corporation at a price of $10,000. An important aspect of Zimride is that it does not charge the user, this helps the service to reach a critical mass sooner. Not charging the user is a departing point from existing car-pooling companies who charge commission per trip, or a subscription charge.

Zimrides eco-credentials speak for themselves. At Cornell, more than 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions have been averted through 4,000 one-time trips over a period of 15 months. Individual carbon emissions saving is automatically calculated and displayed on graphs for the user while carbon emissions saving details for the network can be easily assessed by the network administrators.

Zimride has also partnered up with Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing company to make the all encompassing car-pooling-sharing super service. Let's see it on this side of the Atlantic please!

"If you haven't heard of Zimride, buckle up because it's likely the next non-word to enter the English language." ABC World News.

Zimride have some fantastic videos on their website explaining how the service works, describing the safety features and another video with testimonials from users.

If you would like to know more about Zipcar, below is a TEdtalk from the founder of Zipcar, Robin Chase.