Michael DeWalt is an entrepreneur on a mission. In an effort to give Black customers a service that caters to them, he launched Ride. The answer to many African-American’s concerns with Uber and Lyft, Ride is a car-sharing service geared toward improving the Black economy.
DeWalt told Atlanta Black Star his motivation for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company came from Black authors Dr. Boyce Watkins and Dr. Claud Anderson.
Watkins, a finance professor and social commentator, is known for his books and seminars that encourage African-Americans to “create the opportunity yourself” instead of waiting to be hired by white companies.
Anderson shares a similar message. The cultural expert urged Black people to learn from immigrants’ use of group economics to retain wealth in the community.
“I was inspired by great teachers to build something Black-owned,” 30-year-old DeWalt shared. “I figure what better way to build something than starting a mobile application. I decided to start with a ride-sharing application as I saw [a] big opportunity in that market.”
Upon starting the service, the Peoria, Illinois native gathered a team of fellow engineers – former classmates from Southern Illinois University. The six-man team established their positions and got to work before business began in May.
Ride – Be A Driver, and Ride – Be A Passenger are the mobile applications that link together. They allow drivers and passengers to seek out each other for business. The company currently services hundreds of users. In addition to serving 24 U.S. cities, users have registered in Malaysia, Indonesia and Nigeria.
DeWalt said forming a landscaping company last year informed his mobile app launch.
“My experience with that helped teach me how to start a company, [and get] resources and capital needed to stay afloat. The biggest thing I learned is that I’d rather provide a platform than a labor service.”
Unlike the competition, DeWalt maintains Ride has no extra transaction fees.
“It [has] a cash option,” the founder explained. “Ride app also allows you to pick the function you particularly want with two separate apps to avoid [unwanted] notifications. The driver is paid on every transaction as well.”
Additionally, the service gives customers a cheaper ride-sharing option over Uber and Lyft.
There is also another incentive for African-Americans to support the app: keeping the dollar circulating in the Black economy.
“Ride app provides [the] opportunity to be a driver and make money for the Black community,” DeWalt said. “If the app continues to grow, drivers could do it full or part time to generate income.”
Though Uber and Lyft could have solved the problem Black men have with hailing cabs, Ride occupies a unique position with its Black ownership. DeWalt offers a suggestion for how his company can get at the heart of that transportation issue.
“One way this can hopefully be addressed [is] that [there] will be plenty of Black male drivers [looking] for Black male passengers. A familiar face always helps in addressing this issue.”
As the app continues to grow, many are discovering how enjoyable the service is to use. DeWalt told ABS that feedback is generally positive. The only downside comes from customers who are looking to have more drivers where there is a high-client base.
DeWalt hopes his company eventually reaches the status of Lyft and Uber. The companies each currently have billions of users, according to their websites.
“The goal is for the app to be known worldwide,” he shared. “I want to generate enough wealth to help Black communities build our own libraries, schools, grocery stores, police departments [and] distribution centers.”
Ride is free for both passengers and drivers and is available in the App Store and on Google Play.