In the next few days, a new rideshare app will launch on campus and entirely change the nature of hitchhiking.
Founder and CEO of the app “Wheeli,” Jean-Pierre Adéchi, said he designed the app specifically for college students. With Wheeli, the driver is paid through the app, and students are able to split the cost of both tolls and gas, thus making a cash-free exchange.
The mobile app is currently only operating as a website platform. Each ride allows users to post for rides to short distances.
When drivers post, they are given a suggested price, which is calculated by the car’s gas mileage and the number of tolls along the route. This price can be increased or decreased, depending on the driver’s preference.
“A lot of drivers decrease the price,” Adéchi said. “When we ask them why, they say they don’t want to be in the car by themselves for three or four hours.”
Students search or post for rides with their start and end locations. There is also a specific option that allows users to post for rides to events such as concerts and sporting events.
One aspect of Wheeli that sets it apart from other rideshare apps is that it allows students to network with one another.
“80 percent of car seats are left unused during rides,” VCU sophomore Jamie Cherwek said. “Through Wheeli you can make friends and be eco-friendly.”
Cherwek, the team leader for Wheeli at VCU, said that she has worked to recruit new team members and promote the app around campus.
Cherwek first heard about the organization through the VCU Start Up club. As a young entrepreneur, Cherwek was immediately interested in joining Wheeli and becoming an executive member.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity because I’m interested in starting and growing my own business,” Cherwek said. “It’s a simple idea but it’s really well executed and it hasn’t been done before.”
Currently, Cherwek is joined by two other executive members, sophomore Daniel Garcia and graduate student Furqan Syed. The three are currently working to expand their team and promote the app across campus.
Wheeli operates on a point system as a way for students to refer their friends to sign up for the app.
“The more students there are, the more likely they are to find a ride,” Adéchi said. “The more people you refer, the more money you’ll get.”
When students hit the milestones of 10, 30 and 60 points, they receive gift cards of their choice from stores such as Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks and Chipotle.
According to Adechi, the goal behind Wheeli is to encourage college students to stop “hiding behind applications” and to start having social interactions and experiences again.
“When we talk to our parents and grandparents, they have these awesome stories about hitchhiking, and I feel like our generation is becoming the boring generation,” said Adéchi.
Adéchi said he saw a lot of initial success when he introduced Wheeli to his alma mater, Wesleyan University, last fall.
“I remember being frustrated because I knew there were people at my school from New York and New Jersey but there was no way of finding a ride,” Adéchi said. “From my experience at college, I knew there was a need for this.”
60 percent of the Wesleyan campus has signed onto the network and Adéchi said saw a spike in activity around spring break.
Adéchi’s interest in VCU struck when he dreamt of expanding Wheeli to college campuses to the south and east.
“It’s a large school and (Wheeli) fits the VCU culture,” said Adéchi. “People are very social and outdoors. It fits the profile of people who go on trips and want to go on an adventure.”
In addition to the social aspect, what sets Wheeli aside from other rideshare options, such as Facebook and Craigslist, is its increased level of safety.
When using Wheeli, students are presented with various filters to select who they drive with and who the passengers are. Students are given the option to link their profile to Facebook and Twitter so they can view their mutual friends.
“You’re choosing who you’re riding with and sharing those experiences with,” Adéchi said. “We’re building a community of students going around the country.”
Sophia Belletti, Staff Writer
Sophia is a sophomore journalism major who writes for the Odyssey in addition to the news, sports and spectrum sections of the CT. Sophia also works in sales at Nordstrom and likes hiking and going to concerts. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
Miranda Leung, Graphic Designer
Miranda is a senior pursuing a BFA in Graphic Design. She is interested in the fine line between art and design, and is continually finding ways design can exist within the art world (and vice versa). Miranda primarily creates work pertaining to culture and identity. // Facebook | Portfolio