Wridz launches in Minneapolis after Uber and Lyft threaten to pull out

Bosnian immigrant Jasmin Ascic has been driving for Lyft since 2018, but after hearing rumors that the ride-sharing giant might be leaving Minneapolis, he turned to a competitor based in Austin, Texas.

He said he was sure another company would enter the market after Uber and Lyft threatened to exit.

His appeal could have been the deciding factor. Wridz is one of two new ride-sharing companies the city has approved in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Wridz officially launched its service in Minneapolis. The owners set an ambitious goal of onboarding 1,000 drivers in the first week.

The company operates in 22 additional markets, including Chicago and Rapid City, South Dakota.

“We are not afraid of the minimum wage that is required here. In fact, we accept it. “I think it’s a good thing for drivers to get fair pay,” Wridz founder Steve Wright said at a news conference Thursday.

The company is entering a market in transition. Uber and Lyft have threatened to leave the city – and the state – over a minimum wage ordinance in Minneapolis that is now set to take effect in July. A separate legislative initiative would set a statewide wage floor slightly lower than the rate in Minneapolis.

Wright said his company will remain in the market even if Uber and Lyft remain. And unlike some other current contenders, Wridz has been operating in multiple states for years.

Wright was joined by Councilor Robin Wonsley in announcing the app’s launch on Thursday.

He said Wridz will not implement the Minneapolis ordinance’s rates for drivers until the policy takes effect on July 1. When asked if that was fair, Wonsley said the implementation date was July 1 and that all businesses should then follow the new tariffs.

Wright said Wridz received about 400 driver applicants but only hired a “handful,” although some of them have already started accepting rides.

“It’s like we’re the Netflix of ride-sharing, the drivers pay a small fee per month and get to keep everything, the riders pay all the bills,” Wright said.

Wridz conducts background checks, drug tests, and in-person interviews as part of its onboarding process. Wright said he will spend a few days in the Twin Cities training drivers before taking a short break.

Wright said he expects his app will soon receive approval to operate in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and in St. Paul. In the meantime, drivers can request any drop-off location as long as the ride originates in Minneapolis.

The app has already been tested by Minneapolis City Council member Jason Chavez, who shared his experience on X. Chavez said he paid $5 for his trip.

As of Thursday, four ride-sharing companies — Uber, Lyft, Wridz and MyWeels — are licensed to operate in Minneapolis.

Jasmin Ascic joined Wridz in Bloomington as a driver on Thursday, May 16, 2024. Credit: Alfonzo Galvan | Sahan diary

At least two other companies, Moov and Joiryde, have submitted applications

City spokeswoman Greta Bergstrom told the Star Tribune a third is in the pipeline.

Wonsley said she knows some businesses plan to operate in the city without a license.

According to her, city staff will work closely with the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association (MULDA) and other stakeholders to enforce the new wage ordinance and other city regulations.

Bergstrom said the fine for operating without a license is $250 and can double for each violation. These quotes can be judged against the company and individual drivers.

“We are complaint-oriented but have a progressive enforcement process for TNCs (ride-hailing companies) in certain and unlicensed businesses in general,” she said.

On Thursday afternoon, the company continued its driver onboarding from an office in Bloomington. Wright scheduled 10 drivers for a 1 p.m. meeting and ended up hiring 15.

“It’s not our first rodeo. “We are the only company that comes here and is already competing against Uber and Lyft in the real world,” Wright said to drivers in attendance.

Drivers received Wridz stickers and a neon sign to display in their vehicles.

Wright said drivers on the standard rate would receive 85 cents per mile and 21 to 23 cents per minute.

Drivers also receive a minimum of $5 per ride.

“I think we can accommodate all 10,000 riders in the city, but we don’t want to do that,” Wright said.

As Wridz enters the market, Wright said he would like to see other companies launched as well and expressed a desire to see companies like Moov succeed.

Drivers like Ascic also said they would have more options to serve passengers.

Ascic has been driving for Lyft and also Uber for years, but his account was suspended after he allegedly received “false” negative reviews.

According to Ascic, he and most drivers will most likely have at least two apps running on their phones while driving.

With Wridz, passengers can select their favorite drivers and request them using a special number in the app when looking for a ride.

Wright said this helps drivers retain customers and earn higher tips.

Ascic said he hopes to use the feature in the future.

“I have to test it before I can say whether it is good or not good,” he said. “But if there’s an option for it, it’s probably a good idea.”

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