InstaRyde Dead in Hometown Toronto, Pivots to Austin

Uber-Competitor InstaRyde doesn’t work in Toronto, as of late July 2016.

While in Toronto, I thought I’d try out InstaRyde, the homegrown Uber competitor. No luck. On the InstaRyde app, you’re as likely to find a car in the middle of Lake Ontario as you are from Queen Street West.

The current absence will make another comeback in the Queen City difficult for IR, which has had a history of stops and starts. While InstaRyde falters, Uber rolls on, following new regulations for ride-hailing services that took effect in Toronto on July 15th.

Screenshot of InstaRyde app showing no cars available in Toronto on Monday, July 18.
InstaRyde in Toronto, Monday, July 18. No cars.
Screenshot showing no cars available from InstaRyde on Sunday, July 17, 2006.
No cars on Sunday afternoon, either.

In a business that depends on the size of the network, this long absence from the market will likely be fatal.  No Uber drivers or passengers I spoke to had even heard of InstaRyde.

InstaRyde Made Offers Both Riders and Drivers Would  Like

When it was launched on September 10, 2015, InstaRyde promised many features.

Passengers would love:

  • No surge pricing
  • Low base fares

Drivers would love:

  • Lower 17.5% commission
  • Tipping option in app

Describing the company on the Moore in the Morning radio show in Toronto, InstaRyde co-founder Karim Sumar describes the company’s goal of creating a friendly community. (He sounds like he’s positioning the company to be like the US’s Lyft.) “We see this as kind of your friend picking you up and giving you a ride where you need to go,” he said.

IR’s in the ER

A tweet from the company’s Toronto account announces they’re upgrading their systems—from March 4th!!!

It reads as follows:

Dear Passengers,

Great news, we’re upgrading!

In order to better serve you, we are taking a short break to upgrade the InstaRyde system. As of Friday, March 4th 2016 InstaRyde service will be temporarily unavailable until the upgrades have been implemented.

Once our face-lift is complete, we’ll send you an email to let you know we’re back and better than ever!

Thank you for your continued support of our Proudly Canadian company!

Team InstaRyde

No mention of the drivers, but I’m guessing they gave their ‘independent contractors’ no advanced warning, either.

The only Tweet following this is a generic post supporting the new ride hailing legislation in Toronto. No mention of a comeback.

Nationalism Aint Helping

In the Tweet quoted above, as they announce bad news, InstaRyde emphasizes their Canadian identity in an attempt to smooth things over.InstaRyde Tweet apologizing for delay in promised upgrades.Similarly, the company-wide Twitter feed has a Tweet from April 11 thanking people for their patience, ending with the hashtag: ProudlyCanadian.

Nationalism can help influence buying decisions. Some give it great weight. At the end of the interview, radio host John Moore says, “This is what I think is going to be the future: people are going to say, “Who needs Uber–let’s go local.”

But nationalism can only take you so far. You need a functioning network of drivers and riders.

No Cars on the Road

I checked several times during my Sunday and Monday stay in Toronto, but never saw an InstaRyde car on the road.

  • Last minute weekend fun? Not with IR.
  • Monday morning commute in to work? Not with IR.

They have four levels of service, including black car, but no cars on the road to provide that service.

I had planned on checking more often, but soon you forget them and go to the reliable ride-hailing app, Uber.

InstaRyde Pivots from T.O. to Austin, Texas

Uber, while appearing to crush InstaRyde, gave life to IR, when they–together with US competitor, Lyft–decided to pull out of Austin, Texas on May 9, after a ballot initiative requiring fingerprint-based background checks passed a popular vote.

InstaRyde and a number of other start-ups moved quickly in an attempt to fill in the large gap in transportation services. InstaRyde formally launched in Austin on June 30. Their tag line for the launch: “No Uber. No Lyft. No Problem. InstaRyde is here!”

Checking the status of drivers available on Monday, July 25th, 2016, the number of InstaRyde cars on the road showed promise, even if it is 1600 miles south by southwest of its homeland.

InstaRyde_Austin_Ryde InstaRyde_Austin_RydeXLInstaRyde_Austin_PlatinumInstaRyde_Austin_PlatinumXL

All levels of service had cars, many near the airports, which is in the lower right corner of the screenshots.

The problem for InstaRyde in Toronto: Uber is still there, and, apparently, thriving. Perhaps a fresh start in a new city can rejuvenate the company.

An email to InstaRyde has gone unanswered since July 17th. I will update this post if they respond.

Update: As of July 27, 2016, InstaRyde has not obtained a license to operate in Toronto, according to a city website. Uber has license number B03-4536112.

Have experience riding or driving with InstaRyde? Let me know what it was like.

Leave a Comment