Another carpooling app?
Or maybe not…
The team behind Zify, a carpooling application that intelligently matches work commuters with people offering rides, has good reason to believe its service stands out from the rest of the pack.
The startup managed to make it to the final 24 that pitched at The Next Web Summit this year, staving off competition from the 40,000 other startups that applied. They’ve also landed seed funding from Sean O’Sullivan of SOSVentures, who also saw potential in few teeny products like Netflix and Guitar Hero.
At the Intersection of Carpooling and Fun
At this year’s IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference, a team from the University of Pisa and IBM Research Ireland presented a session on a data-driven approach towards carpooling attempting to achieve genuinely enjoyable experiences while being utilitarian. The researchers made use of crowd-sourced data to understand how to match people based on interests and social profile. Almost a quarter of the participants expressed an interest in carpooling if the possibility of meeting like-minded people in the process existed. It’s this opportunity that Indian startup Zify is looking to tap into.
In order to avoid being just another carpooling app, the team at Zify focused on addressing the three biggest impediments to the spread of ride-sharing: security, flexibility, and engagement.
Stranger-danger is probably the biggest sticking point with carpooling. Videos about Uber rides from hell are a fun watch, but all the bad press Uber has been getting for lax security measures has not just hurt its reputation, but it has made people leery of sharing rides in general.
Zify vets drivers though a rigorous process involving both manual and automated social profiling. People offering rides are required to provide proof of ownership and insurance information in order to get verified. Driver ratings are even displayed separately for male and female passengers, so you know if your prospective carpooling host is a gentleman among gentlemen but shady with the ladies (or the other way around).
To address the engagement issue, Zify’s key selling point is its part-social-network-part-matchmaking experience through its mobile application. Though the feature isn’t fully fleshed out yet, Zify hopes to be something of a MeetUp for carpoolers, so that users aren’t just matched by the destination and timing of their commute, but primarily by their common interests. With this service there’s the added element of possible serendipity (meeting a future employer, roomie, lover, etc.) on an otherwise boring commute.
Sold on the idea of an affordable car ride with someone who may want to talk mixed martial arts or the dangers of carpooling, I tried to take Zify for a spin myself…
It didn’t go so well.
Following the sign-up process, I attempted to get verified but didn’t receive the verification code (still waiting on it). The app also tends to throw up error codes that persist across pages until it’s restarted.
The bugs and lack of users is understandable given that Zify is still in nascent stages of its development. Things are likely to get better once the startup works on feedback from its beta phase, which launches in New York, Dublin, and London later this month. They’re also in the process of raising Series A funding.
Zify is onto a good idea which, with good execution, could give people an affordable way to get around while making friends (or more) in the process.
Feature image courtesy of greenlivingideas.com
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.
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