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When Lâm Võ’s cousin was assaulted by a rideshare driver, his family wanted to find a safer alternative for her transportation. Was there a way she could pick her own driver for future rides? Could she request friends and family members who worked for the app to be her drivers? The answer, on standard ride services such as Lyft and Uber, was no.
Võ soon discovered other riders had this same desire, and he got the idea for a transportation service that emphasized driver–rider relationships. Together with fellow Regis University alumnus Héctor Kambow and friends Buruk Kidane and John Baumgardner, Võ began Denver’s first local rideshare company, Hovit. “We got together and said, here’s a problem in this industry, we should solve this,” Võ says.
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The app, available for Apple and Android devices and serving users across Colorado, was designed with both riders and drivers in mind, Võ says. Riders can search for and request specific drivers, schedule rides in advance, and compare prices in the area or communicate with drivers to set their own price. “The benefit as a rider is I can search for my favorite drivers,” Võ says. “And I know whenever I need to go somewhere, that this is someone I trust.”
For drivers, Võ says the app is unique because it allows them to build a customer base of regular riders, as well as letting them keep 90 percent of their fares (as opposed to 75 percent on Uber and Lyft.) Because of this flexibility, drivers can set their own prices lower than standard transportation fees and make deals with their clientele.
The foursome came up with the idea in 2015 and officially launched the app in December 2016. Since its release, Hovit has grown steadily, and currently boasts a network of more than 1,000 users in the Denver area, along with hundreds of drivers.
The founders pride themselves on their diverse backgrounds. Kidane and Võ are both immigrants—from Ethiopia and Vietnam respectively—Kambow is the son of immigrant parents, and Baumgardner is an Army veteran. They’ve kept close to their humble backgrounds throughout the development process, selling their cars and maxing out their credit cards to pay the $111,250 annual Public Utilities Commission fee in order to get their rideshare permit.
Võ says the team hopes to expand to other cities outside of Colorado someday, but for now, they are eager to see the impact on the Denver market. “Colorado is one of the best places to start a tech company and one of the best markets for ridesharing” he says. “We’re very excited about the future of Hovit here.”