business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

As disruptive as Uber and Lyft have been to the traditional taxi business, providing application-based transportation networks to consumers who theoretically are able to exercise greater control over the experience, there's no question that sometimes they get negative publicity when passengers have been endangered by drivers of questionable rectitude. (I'm putting this as generously as I can.)

What this means is the disruptors may be ripe for disruption.

The Los Angeles Times the other day had a story about a new startup called See Jane Go that is designed to address perceived weaknesses in the Uber/Lyft businesses.

"The ride-hailing company, headed Kimberly Toonen, a former Apple and Cox Communications employee, plans to offer an alternative to Uber, Lyft and taxis by catering specifically to women who don’t feel comfortable getting into a car with a male stranger," the Times writes. "In Boston, a similar ride-hailing start-up, Safeher, also plans to launch later this year with a fleet of women drivers."

And they aren't the only companies seeing opportunity.

The Times reports that "the companies are among a number of start-ups popping up to serve customers that they believe the Ubers and Lyfts of the world are leaving behind: senior citizens, children and, increasingly, women. In L.A., HopSkipDrive has spent the past year signing up drivers with childcare experience to give rides to minors (Uber and Lyft don’t allow minors to ride alone). In the Bay Area, Zum offers on-demand transportation for kids, and throws in babysitting services too."

Now, success isn't as easy as just creating an alternative, even disruptive, business model. Uber and Lyft have considerable head starts, though, to be fair, only 15 percent of US consumers have used ride sharing services, so there remains considerable upside.

There also is a potential legal issue: "Another potential hurdle the companies face is claims of gender discrimination from men who might want to drive for the service (both See Jane Go and Safeher have features in place for men who want to ride with the service – the former will connect the customer with a third party ride-hailing company, the latter said it will transport men, but the app for male users will have different features than the women’s version. The company did not detail what these features will be)."

But the larger lesson, I think, is that disruption never ends ... and that the fissures created by disruptive companies often create cracks and even opportunities of their own.

It's an Eye-Opener.
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