Uber is ready to go public and raise around $9 billion in the process. The CEO and other major stakeholders will be instant billionaires but the drivers, on whose backs the business is built, will largely still struggle. In fact, a recent study found that a third of drivers actually took on debt as a result of driving for Uber. The rideshare industry is lucrative and frankly, necessary. Surely a better model can emerge, one not riddled with scandal and prone to strikes, as Uber has proven to be. Is there a Black owned solution?
Moovn is a Black owned rideshare platform that primarily operates on the African continent. Godwin Gabriel, its founder, is a native of Tanzania but lives in Seattle. When he launched in the app in 2015 he saw more opportunity for growth in Africa because Lyft and Uber were already so prominent in the States. For the first three years he focused on growing the consumer rideshare business in Africa and developing partnerships with hotels and convention centers in the U.S. to provide transportation services. After several missteps by Uber, Godwin decided to expand into the US market, targeting a select number of cities which would eventually include Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Seattle.
Today Moovn’s US presence has scaled back to New York and Seattle, making it clear that there is plenty of space and opportunity, albeit in a competitive industry. But we don’t necessarily have to wait for Moovn’s expansion. Black people have ridesharing in our blood. We organized the Underground Railroad to transport people. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott Black women literally organized ridesharing across the city overnight. That one day boycott eventually spanned over a calendar year! As cities gentrify and Black residents are pushed out to suburban areas that lack viable public transit options, we are seeing more and more examples of residents organizing their own services. We know how to do this, we’ve done it before.
We don’t necessarily need to wait for a Wall Street-backed firm to offer us an opportunity — it’s perfectly okay to start small. There are a still a lot of Black people who work in the central business districts of our cities. Perhaps rounding some of them up and transporting them there in the mornings could be a start. There are a great many of us who like to go out on the weekends and have a good time. Perhaps there is a space for Black entrepreneurs to start a shuttle service to bars and clubs on the weekends. There are an unlimited number of people who need to be moved from point A to B, each and every day. That represents an opportunity for enterprising people, why not us?