Another app-based service plans to compete against Uber, the high-tech firm that has used America’s two most revolutionary machines — the automobile and the Internet — to revolutionalize big business.
The startup is called Juno, and it’s the brainchild of Israeli-American entrepreneur Talmon Marco. Marco amassed a fortune at a relatively young age by starting companies to compete with established businesses. He walked away with $900 million for creating Viber, an online communications program that competes with Skype. He jumped into the file-sharing business with iMesh.
Now, Marco is interested in taking on Uber, according to several media reports.
Juno began testing its services last month and plans to debut in New York this spring, according to Bloomberg Business. The report says the new company plans to charge drivers only 10-percent commissions for the first two years, or less than half of what drivers pay Uber. Future increases will be worked out after consultation with the drivers. The company also plans to give stock to its drivers on a regular basis so that they eventually hold half of the founding shares, creating “a real partnership,” Marco told Bloomberg.
“The advantage of being second is you can learn from other’s experience,” Marco told BloombergBusiness last month. Tripping has tried to reach him through his Facebook page and a publicly available email address, so far without luck. Uber hasn’t gotten back to us. Neither has Lyft, for that matter.
In a lengthy interview last month with Pando.com, Marco said he was moved to go after Uber after talking with one of its drivers and feeling horrified at the terms on which the driver was employed. So he decided that perhaps winning over disaffected drivers could be the opening into the ride-sharing market.
“We are not looking at competing with Uber and Lyft on price,” Marco told Pando. “We are looking to compete on quality. We want to offer a differentiated experience to drivers, but also to riders. There is a lot to improve in this space.”
Juno already claims that “thousands” of New York drivers are running around with its app, and at least 1,000 more are “registered and waiting,” Pando says. Marco told the high-tech news outlet that he’s in process of filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue stock that would eventually be shared with its drivers.
“It is about doing something meaningful,” Marco told Pando, sounding like a young Ben or Jerry eager to infuse a cool new business with idealism.
Juno hasn’t even launched. But making sense of Juno is, in a way, making sense of Uber. And Uber, to judge from its astonishingly fast worldwide growth, has become a emblem of the new economy. It’s popular with riders. And it’s more or less popular with drivers, especially when you consider that its chauffeur pool doubled in size every six months over a two-year period.
But Uber is also troubling. From its start as a toy for the pampered frat boy to order up a Lincoln Town Car baller-style for a night on the town – as its co-founder, Travis Kalanick, said elsewhere – Uber has become the Walmart of the sharing economy. It’s probably forgotten that Uber initially tried to sell itself as a luxury. Now it’s the pricekiller of the taxi and limousine industry, while promoting better service too. [MORE]