sharing economy

Safr, ride sharing for women, rolls out in Boston

Actress and women’s empowerment spokeswoman Alex Kapp, above, will serve Safr as a brand ambassador.

BOSTON—Safr, an innovative new ride-sharing platform for women, today announced the premiere of an invitation-only launch in Boston, with a broader consumer roll out in the Boston market planned for March 1, and market introductions in major U.S. cities to come later this year.

As a service connecting female drivers exclusively with female riders, Safr’s mission is to empower women to participate more fully in the ride-sharing economy.

Since its debut, the ride-sharing economy has rapidly transformed into an $9 billion industry that has experienced unprecedented annual growth, yet women currently account for fewer than one-quarter of drivers on existing ride-sharing platforms and make on average 34 percent less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, fewer women use ride-sharing services as passengers.

“While the flexible schedule and added income would be a great option for many women, they have been reluctant to become ride-sharing drivers because of their concerns about safety,” says Stephanie Sonnabend, former CEO and president of Sonesta Hotels, co-founder of 2020 Women on Boards and Safr board member, in a statement. “Safr wants to change the paradigm in ride-sharing with a platform of women driving women, creating a safe and empowering opportunity for all women.”

With the goal of “empowering its drivers,” Safr says it will offer an equity program, with drivers gaining an increased stake in the company commensurate with their hours of driving and number of driver referrals, relative to their fellow drivers. Safr also says it will offer their first 1,000 drivers a 10 percent company commission lock rate for life, less than half the commission rate for other ridesharing companies.

Safr also says it plans to offer financial planning and other services to drivers “that will further empower them to maximize their financial freedom,” according to this afternoon’s release.

Safr addresses the vulnerability of both passengers and drivers with safety features including a prominent SOS button for both passengers and drivers, a color matching feature that helps passengers and drivers confirm they have connected with the right person before initiating a ride, and a command center that tracks rides in real-time to guard against deviation from a designated route. Safr also says it plants conduct “the most thorough and comprehensive driver background checks as are permitted by law.”

Additionally, Safr says it plans to give back to the communities it serves by donating a portion of proceeds to charitable organizations of importance to its community of drivers and passengers.

Safr has recruited L.A.-based actresses Alex Kapp and Tricia O’Kelley, who starred on CBS’ The New Adventures of Old Christine, to serve as ambassadors for the brand. As heads of Client Engagement and Experience, Kapp and O’Kelley will represent Safr to external constituencies, educate new drivers and passengers about the service through video content and inform the brand user experience. Both single mothers of two daughters, the actresses are advocates for safety and empowerment.

“We are thrilled to be a part of empowering women to take full advantage of the income-generating opportunities and convenient travel that ride-sharing can offer,” says Kapp in a statement. “Safr eliminates some of the sense of unease women may feel using existing platforms, and provides drivers and passengers a sense of community unmatched by other apps.”

The concept, which has evolved from Chariot for Women to Safr, has been in the research and development phase, focused on the development of the leadership team, app features and driver benefits to bring to market.

The new platform will be available for download in the App Store and Google Play the beginning of next week, and is available for use via invitation only until March 1. For more information on becoming a Safr driver, email community@gosafr.com

Date My Wardrobe redefines traveling light

By SHELAGH BRALEY

BOSTON—In a fashion emergency, when they don’t have what they need for a special event, women often turn to their best friends’ closets for a rescue.

With the help of the ever-expanding sharing economy, fashion tech company Date My Wardrobe introduces you to your new best friends, who also happen to be local professional fashion designers.

If only all of our friends could be so cool and helpful.

It could be eveningwear designer Denise Hajjar, whose shop takes up a ground-floor residence at the Intercontinental Hotel on Atlantic Avenue. She creates current, edgy designs with color and attitude.

It could be Colette Chretien, whose environmentally conscious shop produces all of its day-to-night styles right on Cape Cod.

Just ask Amrita Aviyente, Date My Wardrobe founder, what it means to discover local designers and rent their inventory at the fraction of the retail price: “It’s a gateway to an infinite wardrobe,” she says. Even the company’s infinity logo symbolizes trying something new and different, without the limitations or burden of ownership.

But it’s about more than just fashion, she says. It’s about building a technology advantage to fulfill customers’ needs.

Aviyente, a native of Delhi, India, got her master’s in information technology from Bentley University and spent seven years as a successful software engineer for Fidelity Investments before launching her company.

“I have a very deep passion for bringing more women into tech because it’s such an awesome field,” Aviyente says. “And it’s not hard. Once you start doing something, you will love it. We used to think technology was just for guys—which is not true at all—but now we’re getting more and more opportunities.”

Aviyente remains a hands-on technologist, leading a team of three. “Our team is highly skilled at building this experience,” she says. “It’s not just a fashion startup, its tech is a huge component and that’s our advantage. We’re building this technology product to bring designers on board for rentals, where they might not even have websites themselves yet.”

With all of the buzz surrounding the sharing economy, it has become a major economic driver—with global revenue expected to reach about $335 billion by 2025, according to a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report—and customers’ evolving attitudes are at the nexus of this consumer shift, driven by digital behaviors.

“If you read about the sharing economy, that’s the future, and tech plays a huge role. Think of any of these big companies right now: AirB&B doesn’t hold a single property, it’s tech that’s making that happen. Same goes for Uber, without owning a single car,” Aviyente says. “We can do the same for any designer—creating a personal, mobile experience for people who want to rent and need something at one time.”

According to the PwC report, more than 1,000 U.S. survey respondents indicated they saw collaborative consumption as a positive: 86 percent agreed it makes life more affordable, 83 percent said it makes life more efficient and convenient, 76 percent see benefit to the environment, and 78 percent said it builds stronger sense of community.

Where it applies to the fashion and consumer goods industry, 78 percent agreed that sharing reduces waste and clutter that comes with ownership.

Date My Wardrobe creates differentiation where consumers worry about consistency and quality. Because Date My Wardrobe steps in as a facilitator for local designers, and then consumers can engage with the fashion brand locally, designers maintain more control over the brand experience—unlike fashion sharing companies that transact the majority of business over the Internet.

Consumers who aren’t sold on sharing say they want to know what they’re getting before they invest, with 48 percent of PwC’s survey respondents concerned about quality. But those concerns are often allayed through a trusted endorsement: 69 percent indicated they wouldn’t trust a sharing-economy company until it was recommended by someone they trust.

That’s where Date My Wardrobe’s focused distribution strategy stands out. “Our renter market is not just locals but even travelers. For people who are staying at hotels in the city, imagine them being able to rent from a local designer. At the Intercontinental, they can rent from Denise who’s right there,” Aviyente says.

“The concierge asked, ‘Oh, are you similar to Rent the Runway? We get their packages all the time for guests who are staying here.’ And that’s exactly the point,” she says. “People who may not even have thought about Rent the Runway, they can rent from these designers who are right here. What is better than having a designer right here in your lobby? It’s becomes a matter of convenience.”

DMW’s reach puts the opportunity more in focus, Aviyente says, with more than 17.5 billion hotel guest rooms available globally on a daily basis: “Imagine traveling to London or Paris and not having to carry all these nice dresses with you, but have an option where you can discover a new designer near your hotel, and choose from Date My Wardrobe right in all the top hotels? I want to make that happen.”


Date My Wardrobe (available now on iTunes) is looking to partner with local designers who want exposure to fashion-sharing consumers. You can reach Aviyente for more information at amrita@datemywardrobe.com.