UC Santa Barbara graduate Michael Chong is preparing to launch PoolUp, a new smartphone app designed to make ridesharing for students across the state more organized, accessible, and safe.
Michael Chong (Courtesy Photo)
Chong, the CEO of PoolUp, had seen a lot of frustrations searching Facebook ridesharing and wanted to find a way to make that process easier for his colleagues, he told Noozhawk.
“I was the administrator of a Facebook group for UCSB ridesharing and kept getting messages about peeling drivers, no-show passengers, or people who were not paid for their rides,” said Chong. “I just thought the whole process didn’t make logistical sense. I began to see a pattern and began to understand common frustrations. “
The PoolUp app makes drivers and passengers responsible for cancellations through a refund policy, checks drivers and passengers with an .edu email, filters drivers according to preferences, and coordinates hosts and travelers.
“The matching function is very efficient. It saves people all of the frustrating back-and-forth communication and long response times, ”said Chong. “There’s no need for anyone to spend an hour driving home from school.”
After interviewing and speaking with about 200 people, Chong found that safety, accountability and efficiency are major concerns for college students going through the rideshare process.
The app has a rating and rating system that allows users to see if a driver or passenger is trustworthy, similar to Airbnb, Chong said.
“This is a breakthrough app that provides students across California with a quick and easy solution to the previously stressful job of organizing ridesharing on Facebook,” said Janny Xue, UX designer at PoolUp.
In 2019, Chong and his team spent about half a year presenting the idea at UCSB’s New Venture Competition, a competition in which UCSB students develop, refine and validate business ideas.
Although Chong’s group didn’t win the competition, he found that they had spent all of the time going through the pitching process without an actual product, he said.
“I made a pivot there. I thought we’d stop throwing and start building, ”Chong told Noozhawk.
About half of PoolUp’s 15-person team are UCSB students, Chong said.
PoolUp expects to do a beta launch for UCSB students in mid-February and then launch it publicly when the new school year starts in the fall, Chong said.
“We can’t really plan anything. We run as we go, ”he said. “I want to test the UCSB market and make sure this is a product that people want to use.”
If successful, Chong hopes to duplicate the system at other California universities.
“We’ll be going campus by campus at the beginning,” he said, “and once we validate the model, game book, and logistics, we’ll expand across the state.”