CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Corpus Christi is home to a new ride-sharing option. Wridz, as it’s known, has a new take on the traditional ride-share business model and how to ensure passengers feel safe.
Four years in the making, regional owners Rosie and Juan “JR” Gutierrez said they couldn’t pass the opportunity up.
“We went over the game plan, it’s like this was the perfect opportunity to help give back to the community," said Juan. "We were actually fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to be the franchise owners, I guess as you could say regional representatives, of Corpus Christi. And we jumped on it.”
The business is 100 percent Texas owned and only operated in Texas. That’s why the Gutierrez's think this model works. It keeps all the money in the Texas communities.
“From the driver’s aspect, the pay plan is a different business model," said John Blanchette, a Wridz driver in Corpus Christi. "The pay plan’s much better. With Wridz, the company pays the driver 100 percent of the fare plus the tip. Where the competition you get about, give or take, 60 percent on average.”
About 50 drivers are already signed up in the Corpus Christi region. Drivers pay a monthly subscription fee to use the platform. In Corpus Christi it’s $55. That fee changes in every region based on the median income.
Blanchette said he can make his subscription fee back in one day with five or six rides. He said he’s on pace earn over $2,000 a month.
“You talk about enhancing economic development, you talk about job growth. We are actively recruiting for drivers," Juan said.
“We’re trying to give our drivers an opportunity, they don’t have a degree," Rosie said. "Just to give others an opportunity to make their dream grow. That they don’t have to have that college degree and just give everybody a piece of that American dream.”
Rosie said Wridz is more hands on. Drivers have constant contact with regional managers and owners. Drivers were provided with all the startup needs such as business cards, a t-shirt, and the safety placard.
Blanchette also drives for Uber and Lyft. He was one of the first to sign on to drive for Wridz.
“Almost everybody that’s signed up for it was already doing ride-share, but given that they’re paying 100 percent it’s kind of like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?” said Blanchette chuckling.
Immediately he noticed the difference, including that riders are seeing fares 10 percent less than what competitors are charging.
“Riders are really very happy with the company," said Blanchette. "Like I said, they like saving money. I’ve had quite a few riders, when I tell them what the pay plan is they go, 'Wow, that’s cool that you guys get paid more, I like that. I’ll use it more because the drivers are getting a better deal.”
“I think that’s going to be the big thing is that we’re getting that influx of passengers like they’re excited about not paying the surchages or paying the surges," said Juan. "If it’s a $10 ride at 6 o’clock it’s a $10 ride at 2 a.m. with us.”
He said drivers and riders alike can feel safer with Wridz.
“We have a plaque that sits on the front of the windshield and when we drive up the rider can scan the plaque and confirm that that’s his ride,” Blanchette said.
There’s also a second layer of precaution. Driver and rider will see similar screens on their phone. It will be a color and number.
“If I'm picking up in an area where there’s several people waiting to catch a ride, I hold that screen up and they can see a big blue screen with a yellow 62 on it and they’re like, 'Oh yeah that’s my guy.,'" said Blanchette. "So, they’re much more comfortable getting into the vehicle.”
If that’s not enough, Wridz drug tests and does a background check on their drivers.
“Our drivers do go through a daily background check, where the competitors don’t have that, which offers that extra safety," Rosie said. "And I know that a lot of women out there do worry about if they’re out there getting out of a club at 2 o’clock in the morning."
Drivers can also drive in other cities. All they must do is pay the subscription fee in that region.
Corpus Christi is the second market Wridz has been tested in. It’s based in Austin, but first started testing in Lubbock. Wridz will launch in San Antonio soon, Juan said. The plan then is to take it all over Texas and eventually nationwide.
You can find Wridz in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.