Elena Weissmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
At midnight on any given Saturday, hundreds of people across Milwaukee sling back their last drinks, step out of bars, pull up Uber apps — and are shocked to discover their ride home will cost $20.
But not shocked (or sober) enough to turn it down, given the few transportation alternatives.
With the launch of local ridesharing app BidRide, all that could change. BidRide attempts to eliminate surge pricing by allowing riders to set the price and gives drivers the choice to accept or reject. If they reject, they can propose a new price for the rider to consider, and the negotiating continues until a price has been settled — hence the name BidRide.
The app also gives riders the choice between rideshare drivers and taxicab drivers, who undergo extensive background checks when applying for permits.
“We saw what people like and don’t like about the cab industry and the rideshare industry. Then we came up with something the best of both worlds,” said Andrea Davis, president and co-founder of BidRide.
“This is an app that’s easy and convenient. The rider knows who their driver is, but we want them to be able to negotiate the price,” she added.
Davis runs the company with her father, Joe Sanfelippo, a businessman and politician who represents New Berlin in the Wisconsin Legislature. The Sanfelippo family also owns the largest taxi business in Milwaukee, American United Taxicab Group, or TaxiMKE.
“Our family has been in the taxicab business since the 1960s,” Davis said. “Growing up, and throughout college and law school, I worked at the taxicab company my family owned and learned a lot.”
Davis said this exposure helped her create the BidRide model. With her intimate knowledge of the taxi industry, she was better-positioned than most to innovate within the space — and innovation was necessary with the advent of ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.
axis struggled to compete because they faced pricing regulations from the city, which generally requires them to charge per mile. But Davis knew a loophole: If a rider and taxi driver negotiate a price before the ride is taken, the driver need not charge per mile.
And that’s the secret sauce to BidRide: Its bidding process finally allows cabbies to compete on the same playing field as rideshare drivers.
Davis said the startup, which beta launched in April 2017 and relaunched in May 2018, serves a pool of 500 riders and drivers all together. Data from the app indicate drivers accept riders’ first bids most of the time, but occasionally some extended bidding takes place — “just like eBay!” Davis said.
“The driver can do BidRide on a month-to-month basis, so they can use it when they want to. And if a driver doesn’t take a ride, that’s fine, we don’t penalize them,” she said.
Prices through the app are on par with Uber and Lyft prices during the day, but when demand creeps up and surge pricing sets in, BidRide becomes cheaper, Davis said.
The startup operates in Milwaukee and has a few investors, though most funding has come from the company’s co-founders, Davis and Sanfelippo. Now it’s looking for more investors so it can expand, Davis said.
“Eventually we want to add limos and shuttles,” she said. “We are trying to be a transportation aggregator. We are not trying to compete with Uber and Lyft.”
And contrary to what some users may assume, Davis did not intend for the app to sound like Bird Ride, the electric scooter sharing company that recently pulled its scooters from Milwaukee.
“We actually started the company in June 2014, so we came first,” Davis said.