Finding and retaining drivers is the biggest challenge for ridesharing companies. Drivers often work for more than one company and often complain they don’t make enough to support their families. Fasten, a relatively new ridesharing service based in Boston but already branching out, is taking a novel approach to the business, part of which involves charging drivers a $1 flat fee per ride, as reported in Fast Company.
Drivers typically pay ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber a percentage of the total ride fare. Drivers for both companies are considered self-employed contractors — even though many drivers take exception and are suing to be considered employees. Fasten, however, considers riders and drivers to both be paying customers, and charges both.
“At the end of the day, we sell a piece of information to a driver who is the actual service provider,” says Vlad Christoff, Fasten’s co-founder and COO. “They move [riders] in the physical world from point A to point B. We sell a piece of information to the driver that someone needs a ride.”
Fasten CEO and second co-founder Kirill Edvakov are focused on volume. The company’s mantra is “Riders pay less, drivers earn more.” Both Edvakov and Christoff are convinced that as the company adds more drivers, profitability will follow.
“Before, drivers didn’t have a choice,” Edvakov said. “All those companies used to charge huge percentages from drivers. Right now, people do have this choice … It’s profitable on the ride level. We still charge a fee. It requires more volume, but we understand that volume will be here.” Drivers can also get discounts on fees if they complete 20 or 100 rides in a single day.
For riders, part of Fasten’s appeal is a lack of surge pricing at times of high demand. Standard ride fees are in place at all times. Something has to give in rush hour or when the clubs empty, though, and the way Fasten deals with greater demand than supply in peak times is to offer riders a chance to pay more only if they want to get a ride faster. Otherwise, the fare is the same but there will likely be a longer wait.
Fasten started in Boston earlier this year. After Lyft and Uber pulled out of Austin, Texas, Fasten started up with the same business model there. Edvakov said riders and drivers contacted the firm about opening in Austin.
“We started to get emails from both riders and drivers saying it’s horrible down there, and they want us to launch [in Austin],” he said. “It took us 10 days to get to number one [there], and we never looked back.”
Fasten’s co-founders believe their business model is a true “sharing” economy system. Now their firm just needs to build volume.