Uber and Lyft can pick up passengers from all over the world, at any time. However, the drivers tend to be male, and riders have little say in the matter.
That’s why after hearing stories of assault and harassment from female rideshare passengers and drivers alike, former basketball player and Lyft driver Jillian Anderson co-founded HERide, a female-centric driving app operating in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Over and over when I was driving, I would get passengers who had canceled rides before mine because they were trying to get a female driver. Especially if they were riding at night,” Anderson, 29, told Know Your Value.
HERide, which began beta testing in March this year, employs only female drivers. In turn, any passenger can use the app, but drivers have the right to deny rides to anyone who gives them unsafe vibes — a benefit they do not enjoy on the major apps, according to Anderson.
HERide hit hurdles getting off the ground during the pandemic, said Anderson, but today, there are 73 independent contractor drivers on the app. With three staff members on payroll, HERide has delivered 500 rides so far total in the Atlanta area. Anderson said HERide charges passengers similar rates to Lyft and Uber in Atlanta. However, HERide takes 20 percent of profits from each ride, while Lyft and Uber have been known to take larger chunks in major cities - including 48 percent in San Francisco.
“We’re addressing the problem head-on, first on a local level in Atlanta, and we’d expand to other cities once we prove profitability,” said Anderson, who co-founded HERide in 2020 with marketing director DeVynne Starks. “We’re currently seeking investors who want to keep women founders as the heads of the company.”
Reported abuse on major ridesharing platforms
In June, Uber released data showing that 3,824 people had reported sexual assaults on their platform between 2019 and 2020, and that 91 percent of reported rape victims had been women. In 2021, Lyft reported that 4,158 assaults occurred on its platform between 2017 and 2019.
Slater & Slater LLP, is a national law firm representing 550 people claiming to be victims of sexual assault as a result of using Uber. The firm filed a class action lawsuit against the rideshare giant on Jul. 13.
“It sounds like [HERide] is proposing simple solutions to the rampant problem. These are measures that Uber could have thought to do, but they have chosen not to,” said Michael Carney, a partner and trial attorney for Slater & Slater LLP.
Uber said that as of July 15, Slater & Slater, LLP has only provided 12 lawsuits, and they are missing critical details connecting the incidents to Uber.
According to an Uber spokesperson: “Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and we take every single report seriously. There is nothing more important than safety, which is why Uber has built new safety features, established survivor-centric policies, and been more transparent about serious incidents. While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we will continue to keep safety at the heart of our work.”
Lyft also sent a statement to Know Your Value.
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to help keep drivers and riders safe. While safety incidents on our platform are incredibly rare, we realize that even one is too many," said a Lyft spokesperson. "Behind every report is a real person and real experience. That’s why we continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to make Lyft as safe as it can be."
Anderson said she has been hearing stories about alleged assault ever since she started driving a Lyft in 2014. Several female drivers told her that men had allegedly masturbated in their backseats, for example. And in a separate incident, a female passenger told Anderson that a male Uber driver allegedly showed up at her address a few days after their ride, wanting to talk to her.
“I have been hearing so many stories for years. It was clear that women needed a different kind of experience,” said Anderson.
A company is born
Before she was creating safer spaces for women, Anderson said she always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After her dad passed away when she was 12, she started working in a fish market to help her family stay afloat and to pitch into her college fund. She was never without a job after that.
Anderson studied computer science at Albany State University while honing her professional basketball skills. She drove a Lyft to make ends meet and trained for a slot on the Harlem Globetrotters. However, Anderson said she was diagnosed with a rare lymph node disorder called Kikuchi disease, which cut her athletic career short.
Anderson moved to Atlanta and continued gigging before she was inspired to launch HERide with Starks.
“We found our niche, and trademarked the name even before I even had a site developed,” she said.
As for competing with the big guys, Anderson said: “Uber and Lyft have 98 percent of the market share. We’re not on their radar yet, and we probably won’t be for a while. I’m sure once we’re on their radar, we’ll hear from them.”
To fellow female CEOs who are facing down dark or dangerous situations in their industries, Anderson suggested self-care above all.
“The source of my confidence is my support circle. It’s my friends, family, the people I confide in,” said Anderson. “I’m very big on keeping my stress levels down and keeping positive influences around me. Otherwise, negativity will definitely affect your mental health.”