RydenGo promises a unique ride-hail experience

He's calling it, at least unofficially, the "Amazon of transportation."

Last year, Costa Mesa resident Michael Pappas had an idea: Create a new app that's competitive with ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft but puts drivers at the helm.

Thus, the drivers, not the companies they contract with, could set prices. They could determine their own value and, like Amazon Marketplace, put their transportation services online, letting consumers choose.

Enter RydenGo.

"It's basically giving drivers the empowerment," Pappas, RydenGo's co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview. "It's ride-share version 2.0."

RydenGo, based in Newport Beach, is still in its development stage, but Pappas, 47, hopes to begin operations this fall. The company has some seed money but is looking for angel investors, he said.

Sanchez Torres, a recent Cal State Fullerton graduate with a master's degree in software engineering, is the other co-founder. He's helping with software development, website support and research.

"I was fascinated from the first time Michael told me about his vision for RydenGo," Torres said in a news release. "We are not building just a simple app, but a whole new ride-sharing concept. I knew I wanted to be on this ride and help him change the world of transportation."

With RydenGo, users would first request a ride. Nearby drivers would respond with their pricing, allowing the user to pick one.

By contrast, Uber and Lyft set prices and take commissions from the drivers.

RydenGo won't do either. Drivers will keep all of their earnings and tips, Pappas said.

Instead, the company's profit will be derived from a subscription fee — initially set at $20 a month — that drivers pay to be in RydenGo's system.

RydenGo plans to open throughout Southern California and in the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Miami, Portland, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., markets, according to its website.

Pappas said his app has an added safety feature. To avoid getting in the wrong car, RydenGo vehicles will display a four-digit code. Users will have the code and can match it to their requested vehicle.

Pappas, who attended Costa Mesa High School and Orange Coast College, comes from an artistic background. In the art world, he goes by Mikos, a name he'd had since childhood. He works in several mediums, including oil painting, photography and film. He has also consulted for film studios and other businesses

Rydengo will also have a "social" aspect, which could be used to arrange carpools, and a "playground" feature.

Pappas described the playground as a mix between Craigslist and Yelp where people can post unique vehicles or boats.

An example, Pappas said, could be finding a fire engine for an event or even a DeLorean for a "Back to the Future"-themed party.

Pappas said he comes from an admittedly pro-union background, which is why he wants Rydengo to be very worker-focused.

"A company doesn't need to exploit its drivers to profit," he said.

Companies like Uber and Lyft consider their drivers independent contractors. Pappas contends that their model is faulty because the "independence" comes with severe controls.

"It's like telling someone they have freedom within a prison cell," he said.

RydenGo's subscription model " gives people the sense that they are in charge," Pappas said, "which is very important if you want to be self-employed."

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint

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