Jeff Ericson, founder and CEO of RubyRide, Phoenix
This week, we are taking a ride with Jeff Ericson, who created a successful Arizona-based membership-based transportation company that specializes in scheduled, local, regular trips on a recurring revenue model.
Q: What is the inspiration for RubyRide and is this your first time running a business?
Jeff Ericson: My inspiration for RubyRide came from my previous profession as an architect. I have worked and spoken about urban design, multi-family housing and city planning issues for the last 15 years as an architect and a principal at a real estate development company, so this is not my first time running a business. After recognizing the desperate need for better transit options in our low-density cities, I immersed myself in that world, studying and modelling transportation systems.
As a result, I parlayed my extensive real estate and leadership experience into a new venture to offer smart transit options in the low-density cities that I love - starting with Phoenix. This brought up the question of, how do you reconnect low to mid density cities efficiently without having to build parking spots for every private car occupying the valley? This is where the idea of RubyRide came about.
Q: How long did it take to create RubyRide and when did it launch?
Jeff Ericson: The concept of RubyRide started four years ago. RubyRide officially launched November 2013. RubyRide has been in operation for over a year in Arizona and we plan on expanding into other markets soon.
Q: How is RubyRide different from similar transportation services, most notably Uber?
Jeff Ericson: RubyRide's competitor is not the taxi companies, or the Ubers/Lyfts/Zip Cars. Our actual direct competitors are the "private cars". In turn, we are in our own niche of transportation solving as much bigger problem, which is those that no longer want to deal with the hassle of car ownership and creating a most eco-friendly traffic free environment.
Ninety-eight percent of Americans use a private car to move around and statistics have shown that if there was a true alternative to car ownership, then Americans would opt into that option. Here are some additional areas of where RubyRide is set apart:
• We are the only transportation company of our kind in the world, subscription based car and driver service;
• We are insured as a limo company, not a taxi service;
• We allow our customers to schedule trips in advance & on demand;
• We own the fleet of hybrid vehicles and support American Made (so all our vehicles are Ford cars);
• Our drivers are background checked, drug tested, trained & screened;
• You know who your drivers are (you can even request your favorite driver) and you know the vehicle that picks you up because they are uniformed and branded;
• You never tip the driver or pay per trip. With our vary of personalized plans, we customize your transportation needs, and the users are billed 'on fixed monthly fee';
• Due to RubyRide's training, insurance and certifications -we can work with all sorts of profiled audiences including but not limited to businesses, non-profit organizations, K – 12 (carpool), high schools/colleges and universities, millennial, commuters and seniors;
• We do not have peak prices or surcharges; and
• As long as the subscriber is in the car, friends and family can ride along for free.
Q: How are you marketing RubyRide, and what kind of customer feedback have you received to date?
Jeff Ericson: The most successful form of marketing is through word of mouth, although we have built in additional tactics to reach to certain personas such as newspaper advertisements, press releases, transportation sponsor for local events, college events, Groupon, street teams, local support from politicians, councilmen and the Mayor, and ambassadors who we call Community Managers. Our current customer feedback is very positive and we have plans to expand our current fleet to respond to the demand in our market.
Q: What are your near-term plans for RubyRide?
Jeff Ericson: RubyRide is piloting this transportation concept initially in Arizona. In the big picture, RubyRide is being developed to solve similar problems in other low-mid density cities where public transportation/taxis just don't work (because they either go from point a to point b, too expensive for a one-way trip due to trips being longer in time than a high density city, or do not work on your time, budget or schedule).
RubyRide is online at http://rubyride.co/.