If you’re driving for a ride-hailing service like Uber and Lyft, you’re not alone. Approximately 3 million people drive for Uber in 65 countries, completing 15 million trips per day, the company says. Most drivers are doing rideshare as a side hustle. For some, like former Boeing engineer Harry “The Rideshare Guy” Campbell, it’s become their main source of income.
However, ride revenue for Uber and Lyft drivers plummeted by 53 percent in 2017, according to research from the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute. At the time of this writing, neither Uber nor Lyft had announced their long-awaited IPOs. But it’s safe to say few drivers will be cashing out when they do, as all are contractors, not early-stage startup employees with lucrative stock options.
That’s something Fleek—the latest to join the rideshare business—wants to tackle. The service, which launched in June 2018, is running its first pilot trials in the Los Angeles area and, according to its site, is on a mission to smarten up the industry by encouraging everyone to upgrade their rideshare experience.
For the pilot, only “professional drivers” (those with Commercial Driver’s Licenses) and registered vehicles with commercial grade insurance can apply—although the idea is to open up the service to other drivers eventually. In return, Fleek provides a tech platform, 24/7 live support, and only takes a 10 percent cut (compared to 25 to 50 percent at rival services, depending on surge pricing).
PCMag spoke with Founder and CEO Joel Kasr via email to find out more. Here are edited and condensed excerpts of our conversation.
Joel, first off, why Los Angeles?
Los Angeles has a great tech community scene with unparalleled startup talent, plus it’s one of the top rideshare markets in the US so it just made perfect sense for Fleek to start here.
The team has an interesting background. Yours is in interactive design, as Founder/CEO of Seattle-based software development agency KaJ Labs. CTO Shazad Malik has a background in cyber security and comes from Hyundai, while your COO Thad Hoffmaster came from Pacific Aerospace . What made you all want to get into the rideshare space?
The biggest issue in rideshare isn’t being addressed by either Uber/Lyft and that is: unfair driver pay. Studies have been conducted by UCLA, MIT, the New York City council, and many others (like JPMorgan Chase) that have clearly shown that drivers don’t earn fair wages. I believe this is the biggest issue in rideshare and Fleek intends to fix that. Since I run a software development agency, it made it much easier to build out the platform and venture into this space to try and solve this problem.
Why ‘Fleek’ as a brand name?
According to the Urban Dictionary, “Fleek” is defined as something that’s extremely good, attractive, or stylish and that’s exactly the kind of service we offer and that’s why.
Who are your financial backers? And are any of them also investors in Uber, Lyft et al?
We don’t have outside investors at the moment. I am funding the project but we will be closing our first round soon.
Why did you decide on only opening up to professional drivers? Won’t that limit your revenue potential? How many Commercial Driver’s License holders are there in the US?
For the pilot, we decided to open up to only professional drivers but we plan on signing up non-professional drivers in the near future as well.
How stringent are your background checks? Uber has been plagued by this problem; CNN found that convicted felons slipped through their net recently.
We take safety very serious at Fleek. In order to qualify to drive, every driver is required to undergo a background check as part of the application process. First, we look at the driving record to make sure that you are a capable, safe driver then we initiate a criminal background check for any criminal offenses or driving-related convictions. Our background checks enable us to ensure that we’re meeting safety standards and protecting both the drivers and riders. If the driver doesn’t meet all of our safety standards, they’re ineligible to drive for Fleek.