Hi there, my name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist hanging out on Planet Earth. Today I’m interviewing Su Sanni, the CEO of Dollaride, the app-based rideshare with a mission to make public transit accessible and affordable to everyone, everywhere.
Spiffy: Welcome to Spiffy’s Blog, Su! Can you tell me what challenge Dollaride is addressing?
Su: Of course! Thank you for having me, Spiffy. Dollaride is the app-based rideshare option for the millions of Americans who aren’t adequately served by public transit, and find taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts too costly for their daily needs. Even in NYC, a city with one of the world’s biggest transit systems, over 600,000 people live in “transit deserts” and have to spend hours each day commuting to work. Since the 1980s, cash-based, micro-transit systems of dollar vans have been easing the commuting pain for disenfranchised people. Dollaride is digitizing and mobilizing these networks, helping local drivers grow their ridership, and creating an affordable solution with reliable routes for riders. The company's mission is to make public transit accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Spiffy: That’s super! What motivated you to do it?
Su: I personally grew up in areas of NYC that had severe transit deserts, and eventually used dollar vans as my first and last-mile connection to public transit. After learning that my uncles were dollar van drivers back in '80, and became successful transportation business owners thereafter, I was inspired to elevate the service and utility of informal transit (i.e. dollar vans) to the city of New York. My goal is to create a platform that provides transit equity and economic mobility to underserved communities through Dollaride.
Spiffy: Can you elaborate on how the work that Dollaride is doing is helping make a more equitable world?
Su: Eventually, we plan to provide the infrastructure that will allow dollar vans and similar networks to deliver a clean transportation service in their communities. We've partnered with firms that will allow us to electrify 250 vehicles, install EV charging stations, and support hundreds of drivers as they prepare for a future of clean transportation in their communities. This 90-second video explains our initiative—Clean Transit Access Program—in more detail.
Spiffy: Thanks for sharing that cool video! Tell me about a recent initiative by Dollaride and the impact that it makes.
Su: We recently created and launched a new sponsored route in Jamaica Queens that has been a huge success and confirmation that we're effectively filling transportation gaps and needs in transit deserts. The GatewayJFK Connection route has surpassed 400 daily riders within ten weeks of operation and saved over 5,500 unique riders 30 minutes per day on their daily commute. Learning from our riders that we're giving people time back in their day has been a great motivator for everyone in the company.
Spiffy: I bet! Now, every company deals with challenges. Can you share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from it?
Su: We face failure every day. This is the nature of entrepreneurship and part of the life of a founder. But I've learned how to persevere and to stay positive and optimistic, which is relatively easy when you truly believe that what you're doing is right. The first two versions of Dollaride's rider app were failures, and cost the company over $100,000 and 12 months of hard work. While these setbacks could have tanked the company or discouraged me from continuing, I was encouraged by the fact that people—both riders and drivers—continued to tell us how much they needed Dollaride and hoped for our expansion to their own neighborhoods and cities. So I didn't give up and found a way to press forward.
Spiffy: Very inspiring, Su! It’s an essential service you’re providing and I wish you all the continued success. Thank you so much for talking to me today, it’s been an honor!
Su Sanni is a Brooklyn-born, two-time founder pursuing economic mobility and transit equity through Dollaride. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Boston College and is a product of NYC public schools. His last startup, WeDidIt, helped over 2,000 nonprofits raise more than $60 million online before its acquisition by the Allegiance Fundraising Group. (Nominated by Visible Hands. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 23, 2021)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.