Zimride connects inter-city drivers and passengers through social networking and is the largest rideshare program in the United States. The service has over 350,000 users, is active on 125 university campuses, and has partnerships with Facebook and Zipcar.
Co-founder Logan Green had the inspiration for Zimride after sharing rides from the University of California, Santa Barbara campus to visit his girlfriend in Los Angeles. He had used Craigslist’s ride boards, but wanted to eliminate the anxiety of not knowing the passenger or driver. When Facebook opened its API to third-party developers, Green thought “Here’s the missing ingredient”.
John Zimmer was inspired by the empty seats he had during his commute from Upstate New York to New York City while an analyst at Lehman Brothers. As a student at Cornell University, Zimmer took classes on transportation. After learning of the progression from canals to railroads to highways, he viewed ridesharing as the next step towards efficiency. Noting that 80% of the seats on American highways are empty how to tenderize tough cooked beef, Zimmer asserts that ridesharing, “is a huge opportunity to create efficiency to save a lot of money and to reduce our environmental footprint”.
Zimmer and Green were introduced through a mutual friend and met on Facebook. Green had posted details about his new company called “Zimride”, which interested Zimmer, who had been keeping a journal about carpooling ideas. Although the names Zimmer and Zimride are similar, the company name comes from the country Zimbabwe, where Green had observed locals develop a grassroots public transportation system.
In 2007, Zimride received $250,000 in seed money from Facebook’s fbFund, expanded to six employees, and took on Stanford and Dartmouth as clients. fbFund selected Zimride, along with ten other startups, out of 1,000 applicants.
In August 2010, Zimride announced a $1.2 million round of seed funding from FLOODGATE, K9 Ventures, Keith Rabois, and Teddy Downey.
In 2011, Zimride closed a $6 million Series A round of funding from the Mayfield Fund, FLOODGATE, and K9 Ventures, bringing their total investments to $7.5 million.
In 2007, Green and Zimmer launched the first version of the rideshare program at Cornell University; in six months, the service had signed up 20% of the student body. Green and Zimmer promoted the service through guerrilla marketing; in particular, the pair would dress in frog suits and hand out flyers to Cornell students. Later, while on a Lehman Brothers recruiting trip, Zimmer was recognized by a potential recruit, who asked “I swear I recognize you—were you in a frog suit on Saturday on campus?” By 2007, Zimride was active on both Cornell’s and UCSB’s campuses. Zimmer would later quit his job at Lehman Brothers to work with Green full-time on Zimride.
As of April 2012, Zimride has 29 employees, has facilitated more than 26,000 carpools, has helped users travel over 100 million miles, and has saved over $50 million in vehicle operating expenses. The service is active at over 125 universities including USC, University of Minnesota, UCLA, UCSF, Cornell, Harvard, and the University of Michigan. Universities pay around $10,000 per year to use the platform
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. Travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles was the most popular route on Zimride.
In 2012, Zimride redesigned its website for use on smartphone web browsers. The new version of the site was designed by LinkedIn’s mobile product and design lead Frank Yoo.
Zimride was sold to Enterprise Holdings (St. Louis) on July 10, 2013. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
Users sign into Zimride through their Facebook account, which creates a profile for them on the Zimride system. When a user posts available seats in his or her car, along with personal details like smoking and musical preferences, passengers can find a match for their destination. The service connects people that work at the same company, go to the same school, or have mutual Facebook friends. By doing this, the anxiety of ridesharing with a stranger is eliminated. When looking back on why carpooling had failed in the past, Zimmer said that the number one reason was trust.
Creating a Zimride profile is free. The site uses an algorithm that accounts for the distance to pick someone up and the time for detouring to a passenger drop-off point. The site then ranks the options and assigns a score to the best matches. Drivers decide what to charge passengers, although Zimride offers suggested charges based on gas costs. Passengers can pay with PayPal or credit card, and will receive a full refund if the driver fails to pick up. The routes between San Francisco and Los Angeles and San Francisco to Lake Tahoe are both public routes, which means drivers can sell seats in their cars to buyers, who purchase the trip like a plane ticket. The majority of Zimride users are women.
In May 2012, Zimride announced Lyft, an app that allows users to request a driver immediately and get a ride anywhere. The company vets each driver with a thorough interview process and criminal check, and users pay for the ride with a donation, which is approximately 30% less than a cab fare.
In 2009, Zimride partnered with Zipcar to allow customers who have rented out a Zipcar to bring passengers on trips. The plan originated years before when Zimmer reached out to Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith while working at Lehman Brothers.
The site currently has over 350,000 registered users and has saved $50 million in vehicle operation expenses. Representatives at the University of Southern California note that Zimride is “a lot different than reading a blank ad. It’s been received well on campus”. Reuters noted “The Zimride brand promise is to reduce CO2 emissions, lower the annual strain on our transportation infrastructure and help everyone involved save money. They just may have a shot at making carpooling sexy”. In 2009, Zimmer and Green were named finalists in Business Week’s list of America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.
Zimride has partnered with concert company Live Nation and music festivals Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Lollapalooza to hold ridesharing contests that award users with prizes. Zimride has also partnered with Jack Johnson natural steak tenderizer, Dave Matthews Band, and Sheryl Crow to provide ridesharing to their events.
Zimride users often become friends with their passengers or drivers. Zimmer’s goal for Zimride is to bring “communities together and help people save money”.