Vancouver-based rideshare start-up looks to break into Ontario, Quebec markets

POP Rideshare opens office in Kingston to target students, university markets

Co-founders Luke Burden (left), Flo Devellennes (right) and passenger Carly Walde (center).
Photo supplied by Flo Devellennes

While most ride-sharing ventures focus on short-distance trips, one start-up has come to Kingston to change the nature of the business.

Flo Devellennes is the co-founder and CEO of the Vancouver-based start-up POP Rideshare. The platform will seek to connect Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal by helping to fill empty seats in people’s cars who are already travelling to a destination. 

Unlike the more traditional ridesharing set-ups, like Uber and Lyft, POP Rideshare looks to connect people going on long-distance trips.

Other long-distance rideshare companies — like the Paris-based BlaBlaCar — operate in a similar fashion and have been successful in the last five years.  

POP Rideshare opened its first office outside of western Canada this summer, choosing Kingston to facilitate its move into the Ontario and Quebec markets.

Users of POP will be able to search for rides via the website or app and pay for their seats online. Devellennes said the platform promotes accountability by having a similar mutual review system as other services like Uber and AirB&B. 

“We are not a company that has raised millions of dollars, we are a start-up from Vancouver, we’ve been around for three years and we have 60,000 users,” Devellennes said.

When the platform began in December of 2014, its first major route took skiers from Vancouver to Whistler. Since then, the company has expanded into the whole of B.C., Alberta and parts of the Northwestern United States. Now, POP is on both the Android and Apple app stores. 

In the last six months the company has sought to move into the Ontario and Quebec markets, specifically along Highway 401. Devellennes described Kingston as the “sweet spot” in terms of a location that is central on the 401 corridor. 

According to Devellennes, POP is meant to be affordable to students, unlike other ridesharing platforms like Uber that only travel short distances and cost nearly as much as a taxi. 

“A ride on Uber is minimum a dollar per kilometre, a ride on POP is average 10 cents per kilometre, so the pricing we are able to offer, filing extra capacity, is one tenth of the price of Uber,” Devellennes said.

“Our competition is not actually Uber at all,” Devellennes remarked. “Our competition is Via Rail and the Greyhound.” 

POP provides accountability that is lost on ridesharing set-ups like the massive Queen’s ridesharing group on Facebook that has accrued over 25,000 members, Devellenes said.

“The main problem with the way people organize rides on Facebook is reliability. We heard from drivers that about 30 to 50 per cent of the people who book with them through Facebook don’t show up. [This] is a huge waste of time for drivers, but also means that cars will actually not get filled,” he said.

“It’s a free market, so people will choose one solution over another,” Devellennes continued, citing AirB&B as an example. 

“A lot of people used short-term rentals through Craigslist, then AirB&B created this marketplace where people could trust each other and ensure they were actually going to get into a place, that its actually going to be clean, that the host would actually show up. We are trying to do the same with long-distance ride-sharing through our company.”

POP will be on Queen’s campus this year working to gain recognition from students, who Devellennes hopes will make up a significant amount of their users.

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