As hundreds of thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers face uncertain futures in California, there are two startups preparing to offer alternative approaches to the ride-hail business. This alternative approach comes as Uber and Lyft continue to battle with California over how their drivers are classified.
One of the apps, Dumpling, is a Seattle-based startup originally launched in 2018 to create an alternative to on-demand grocery delivery services. Workers who use the platform are essentially small business owners. Dumpling shares information with workers about how to set up a sole proprietorship or LLC. They also offer a suite of tools, including a personalized website, business coaching, and a pre-funded credit card to shop orders. The goal of uses those tools is to help the drives run their businesses.
To start with Dumpling, there is a worker setup fee. The company offers both free and paid monthly subscriptions for access to the tools. Workers have the ability to choose their clients, set their own prices, and go to a range of stores for one order and build a direct relationship with clients. Those who are requesting services can use the same shopper in the future.
In addition to the grocery service, Dumpling wants to aid drivers in starting ride businesses with a separate app called Dumpling Drive. According to Dumpling cofounder and co-CEO Joel Shapiro in an interview with CNN, “With everything going on in California, there has been a big uptick in interest of people looking for an alternative.” Dumpling Drive is currently available nationwide and drivers are being offered the first 60 days free of cost. After that, there is a $20 monthly subscription.
The other app, which is Dallas-based rideshare startup Alto, is planning on entering California by late October, beginning in Los Angeles. This startup classifies its drivers as employees and focuses on offering upscale ride services focused on hospitality and safety. Employees are offered healthcare benefits and paid hourly wages. It’s important to note that Alto drivers still have flexibility, as some work fewer than 10 hours per week, while others work full-time.
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