Politics and Government

A few things to know about the companies planning to replace or compete with Uber and Lyft

A man sits in an office, the door is ajar
MyWeels founder and CEO Elam Baer sits in the rideshare app’s St. Paul offices on May 8.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Statewide legislation which would set minimum wages for rideshare drivers is still working its way through the Capitol.  The proposal, which some Minneapolis City Council members have agreed to, would set both Minneapolis and statewide wages for drivers at $1.27 per mile and $0.49 per minute.

Those rates are lower than those in the Minneapolis city ordinance set to go into effect July 1.

However, Uber and Lyft say that rate is still too high and say they will leave both Minneapolis and the entire state if that legislation is passed.

If Uber and Lyft leave, there are several new companies ready to take their places, or to compete with Uber and Lyft if they stay.

The companies

According to the city of Minneapolis, the rideshare companies that have applied for Transportation Network Company (TNC) licensing so far are MyWeels, Wridz, Joiryde, Moov and Hich

Both MyWeels and Wridz received licensing to operate in Minneapolis. 

Wridz announced Wednesday that its app is ready to launch and will be the first provider to start offering rides to customers this week.

TNC licensing in Minneapolis is close to $40,000 per year, plus a $10,000 wheelchair surcharge. The approval process takes about two to six weeks. 

There is an additional licensing process to operate at the airport. MyWeels has applied to operate at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and submitted a $10,000 security deposit and a $500 application fee. It is awaiting approval. 

MyWeels has also submitted an application for St. Paul licensing but has not been approved yet. Company CEO Elam Baer says that application cost $41,115.

While at least a couple of companies have paid those fees and others are in the process, some are reevaluating entering the Minneapolis market. 

A phone sits on a dashboard car mount
Rideshare driver Farhan Badel pulls up a job on the Lyft driver app, displaying a $7 fee for a ride from downtown Minneapolis to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

In a statement referring to licensing and other fees, founder and CEO of Joiryde David Linhardt said, “it does not appear the City of Minneapolis is serious about creating an environment that encourages competition and supports new entrants in the rideshare and transportation market.” 

The city issued the following response:

“In addition to Uber and Lyft, the City of Minneapolis has licensed Wridz and MyWeels, who completed the application process in full, including providing required insurance and paying the $35,820 in license fees covering the remainder of the year,” reads the statement. “The City’s annual license fee is $46,820. Joiryde did not submit a full application.”

Filling the void

There are still many lingering questions about how sustainable the rideshare companies will be and how they plan to fill the void if Uber and Lyft leave. 

Baer, the founder and CEO of Minnesota-based MyWeels, plans to launch an ad campaign soon. Baer is also the CEO of North Central Equity.

Baer says his app will work similarly to Uber and Lyft where passengers can request a ride from the app. He says the difference is that his company will abide by the new ordinance and not complain about it. 

“These are hard working people, this is not a cush job or anything. And they’re always driving those vehicles knowing that they're wearing them out,” Baer said. 

Baer says drivers would make roughly 75 percent of the fare share, but he expects the cost will also slightly increase for riders. 

He also said realistically, if Uber and Lyft do decide to stay, he’ll have more competition but he says it’s a good opportunity for apps like his to be able to focus on areas that Uber and Lyft aren’t necessarily invested in — like focusing on those in the disability community. 

“If Uber and Lyft return to town, and they don’t want to service that market anyway, it’s something that’s easy for a small operator to dig into and make it a real focus of the business, not just something you’re doing as sort of a nuisance service,” Baer said. 

A man poses for a photo
MyWeels founder and CEO Elam Baer sits in the rideshare app’s St. Paul offices.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Baer says around 100 drivers are signed up on the app. 

Steve Wright is the founder and CEO of Wridz which is based in Texas. Wright says Wridz drivers pay a fee of about $100 a month to use the app and the company won’t take a penny on the actual trips. Wright says the drivers keep 100 percent of the money earned on trips. He says essentially, the drivers are the customers. 

“I think the function of that part is very well, just with the exception that the driver can see considerably more for the same miles and minutes that they use on the other apps,” Wright said. 

Passengers are also charged fees for commercial insurance premiums and airport fees. Wright said he started the app after Uber and Lyft left Austin, Texas in 2016 and eventually came back. He also developed the app after selling a medical equipment company he ran for 27 years. The app currently operates in 9 states, Minnesota would be the 10th state. 

Wright did not say how many drivers are currently enrolled on Wridz. 

Wright also says Wridz does not have surge pricing, but instead offers a passenger-induced surge where riders can choose how much extra they’d like to pay a driver during a busier time. 

Safety and security measures

Both founders of Wridz and MyWeels say they won’t keep  customer data. Instead, Baer says the data will be held on an Amazon cloud that MyWeels doesn’t have access to. 

Wright says customer data goes through an encrypted portal to the actual credit card processing company.

“I think that’s the best way to cover those concerns. We’re very secure because we don’t have your information in our system,” Wright said. 

When it comes to rider safety, they both say all drivers will go through background checks run by a third party company. 

“When I designed the company, I really was thinking from the passenger side, what would I expect if my wife or daughters were getting in a car with a stranger?” he said. 

A closeup of Uber and Lyft stickers
Uber and Lyft stickers are prominently displayed on driver Farhan Badel’s Toyota Camry as he drives during a shift in Minneapolis.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Considering niche markets 

Time will reveal the sustainability and success of the new rideshare companies. 

Founders of some of the emerging rideshare apps understand if Uber and Lyft continue to dominate the market, the competition will be tougher to beat, but they remain hopeful. 

Baer says he’s aware of the challenges ahead and is strategizing accordingly, like potentially offering roundtrip services for the elderly. 

Some are already considering niche markets and underserved areas where Uber and Lyft have not established a strong presence. Baer says targeting specific demographics allows him to offer tailored services that could meet various needs, potentially giving MyWeels a competitive edge. 

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