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Moore School Students Reinvent the College Road Trip
February 18, 2013
Most of us remember the days of standing in the student union or dorm lobby looking at thumb-tacked index cards on a ride board, and hoping to find a way—any way—to catch a ride home for the holidays. A group of Moore School graduates have taken that experience into the social networking age with their start-up company, RidePost.
|Catch a ride with RidePost, the new improved ride-sharing program launched at USC-Columbia in the fall, as it catches on across the globe. L-R: founding members Marty Bauer (IMBA ‘12), Robert Pearce (BA ‘10), Blair Deckard (IMBA ‘12) and Nik Budisavljevic (Law ‘10; IMBA’12). |
RidePost, which has been described as “Match.com for transportation,” uses existing social networking tools to partner students and others who want to share transportation, save some money and meet interesting new people. Members sign up for the service through Facebook and are matched not only based on where they need to go, but also on who they might be most comfortable spending time with on a long road trip.
Company co-founder Marty Bauer (IMBA ’12) shared his own experience about a RidePost trip to New York with a Moroccan student. “I had travelled in Morocco so I knew we’d have something to talk about on a long drive,” Bauer said. The trip was a success and they are still friends today.
Bauer said that by allowing users to match based on interests, RidePost reduces the fear of spending a long time with a complete stranger. “If you are riding with another person, you want to feel safe as well as be able to converse comfortably with them, so it is important to have interests in common. Users can view information and ratings in advance that assures them a person is socially validated. We provide transparency by giving people the ownership of their reputation. It is very important that a RidePost user can ‘know’ the person with whom they are getting into a car.”
Bauer founded the company along with Blair Deckard (IMBA ‘12) and Nik Budisavljevic (Law ‘10; IMBA’12), whom he met while the three were studying in the IMBA program at the Darla Moore School of Business. Robert Pearce (BA ‘10), a fourth partner, handles all the technological aspects of the company despite his background in English Literature. “Robert is our true renaissance man,” Bauer said.
The RidePost model tries to connect a generation of users in the way they understand and feel comfortable. “Despite the fact that one in five relationships now start online, some still view the Internet as anonymous,” Bauer said. “But, we prove that good people do good things. Our users have engaged in online interactions since they can remember and they are comfortable evaluating others based upon an online profile.”
The RidePost team also recognizes that users have to trust the service if it is going to succeed, so they’ve set up a few safeguards. Before they can be considered, users must have a valid “.edu” address from a college. RidePost can also verify each applicant’s cell phone and home address. And since users login using Facebook, it is possible to weed out fake profiles or not well-formed identities. “Users can evaluate the person’s number of friends, length of time on Facebook and the mutual friends you have in common,” Bauer said.
RidePost takes the financial burden off of users. Payments are routed through the service, so there is no need for a direct transaction of cash or concerns about non-payment. There is no commitment to a long-term carpool relationship, thus no awkwardness about how to end a transaction. Members sign up and post any ride free, and the service only charges a fee once a ride is matched up. The rider pays the RidePost site, then that amount goes to the driver upon completion of a successful trip, minus the small transaction fee.
RidePost is still very much a start-up company. They chose USC for the pilot last year with the goal to launch the product, gain feedback from users, and improve the product for a 2013 expansion. At their corporate offices in Greenville, S.C., the RidePost team is working diligently to reach out to the next wave of universities.
Just as eBay revolutionized the garage sale and Match.com revolutionized the first date, the RidePost team hopes to revolutionize the college road trip. “Our team relationship is so important, as is how we work together to achieve our goals,” Bauer said. “But, no matter where we end up, our path always leads back to USC because all of us are alumni. It is so nice to have that connection.”
By Clair Boatwright
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