Niche Start-Up: See Jane Go, a Start-Up that Will Cater to Female Passengers

Tracey Lien reported on Sunday’s Los Angeles Times that, “The ride-hailing company [See Jane Go], headed by 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. In Boston, a similar ride-hailing start-up, Safeher, also plans to launch later this year with a fleet of women drivers.”

The article explained 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.”

Yesterday’s article pointed out that, “In the tech world, there is no shortage of companies trying to take on incumbents. Most struggle to fund-raise and grow. Others fizzle before they even launch. Some place priority on ideological positions, with their existence serving to protest the status quo – like Ello, an ad-free alternative to Facebook, or Juno, a ride-hailing firm that offers drivers equity in the company.

“Most tech experts agree that going head-to-head with Facebook or Uber will not bode well for newcomers, but upstarts like See Jane Go say zigging when industry giants zag will allow them to carve out a sustainable niche.

“Considering only 15% of Americans have used a ride-hailing service, there are still large pieces of the pie up for grabs.”

Nonetheless, the L.A. Times article added that, “But these start-ups will likely face tremendous head winds. While focus groups suggest that a ride-hailing service for women is a good idea, ‘the idea alone is never enough,’ said Jennifer Polk, an analyst with research firm Gartner…[P]olk notes that, empirically, Uber, Lyft, and taxis aren’t unsafe. Millions of passengers — male and female — take rides daily without incident. For many women, a driver’s gender is a non-issue, and neither Uber nor Lyft have announced plans to develop gender-specific features for their apps. So will there be enough customer demand to support the start-ups?”

“‘In the modern age of tech, for every business that succeeds, about 100 fail,’ [Evan Rawley, a professor at the Columbia School of Business] said. ‘So if you’ve got Uber and Lyft, that means 200 other companies have already, or will, fail.'”

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