Small rideshare companies said they’d fill void if Uber and Lyft left. What happens now that they’re staying?

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When Uber and Lyft threatened to pull out of Minneapolis, if not the state of Minnesota, over proposed minimum wages for drivers, Murid Amini went into overdrive on his plans to launch a Twin Cities-based rideshare company.

More than 700 potential drivers have signed up for information about MOOV, his Woodbury-based start-up, he said, and a week ago, he asked some 580 applicants to authorize background checks.

Uber and Lyft since have decided to stick around, following a statewide wage agreement hammered out last weekend by state lawmakers. So what happens to MOOV now?

Despite some challenges covering St. Paul’s $41,000 application and licensing fees with half the money upfront, Amini said he’s still all in. He’s optimistic MOOV will roll into Minneapolis and St. Paul in June. Technically, he said, he’s met all the insurance criteria to start operating in the suburbs.

“When I started this thing, it was before Uber and Lyft were threatening to leave,” Amini said in an interview Thursday. “My assumption was always that they would stick around. It was a happy coincidence that they were threatening to leave.”

But those threats “opened the flood gates for other competitors to crop up,” Amini added. “I was always planning for them to be here and being the competition. I’m confident we’ll have a better product, a better experience. … We’re excited to start bringing jobs to the local market.”

Different platforms

Like Amini, the founders and proprietors of Wridz and MyWeels say they’re rolling into the Twin Cities market with a somewhat different product from Uber and Lyft, the long-reigning signature service providers of the ridehailing industry. Company founders have said given the recent tumult in the industry, established drivers are open to trying out new platforms, which could be more competitive for their services.

“The number of drivers (signing up) has been way beyond what I thought, the speed at which they’re coming in,” MyWeels founder Elam Baer said Thursday. “I was sort of concerned that the drivers would stop coming when the (wage) legislation passed keeping Uber and Lyft here, but they’ve still been coming.”

Also in the wings are new ridesharing “non-emergency medical transport” companies, known in the industry as NEMTs, which are funded by managed care plans like Medicaid to transport elderly and disabled patients to medical appointments, grocery runs and the like.

Uber and Lyft sticking around “will really not affect us,” said Josh Massey, chief executive officer of Denver-based Carepool, which plans to expand in the Twin Cities market and Duluth after recently acquiring the vendor Mobility 4 All.

Here’s a quick look at a handful of ridesharing alternatives to Uber and Lyft:


On Wednesday, the St. Paul City Council approved a licensing application from Baer, the South Minneapolis-based president and chief executive officer of MyWeels, to launch his ridesharing company from leased office space in downtown St. Paul. Baer’s licensing application indicates his drivers could roll through the capital city as soon as June 1.

Baer, who was licensed to launch in Minneapolis on May 1, said he’s had 30 drivers operating mostly in the suburbs, with another 250 drivers awaiting their background checks. Almost all of them also are Uber and Lyft drivers, so the cars and passenger experience should be the same, he said.

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Why would a passenger choose MyWeels over the established competition? Baer said that besides supporting a local company, riders will find that his platform tries to steer them toward their favorite drivers first, fostering familiarity and regularity. Drivers have an incentive to cultivate regular clientele as if they were building their own business.

“In my case, I just needed to make sure I wasn’t required to pay more than anybody else and I’d be fine,” Baer said. “I never did have an objection to the increased rates that the city of Minneapolis adopted.”

Baer, a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School who gets around primarily through rideshare, is the chief executive officer of North Central Equity, a holding company for a variety of unrelated businesses, of which MyWeels is a subsidiary. The company is not associated with MyWheels, the largest carsharing car-rental outfit in the Netherlands.


Steve Wright, chief executive officer of Wridz, rolled his Austin, Texas-based ridesharing app into Minneapolis this month, making good on a promise to enter the Twin Cities market regardless of whether Uber and Lyft stay or go. Wridz, which operates in nine states, has yet to complete a license application with the city of St. Paul, though Wright said Thursday the company is hopeful its paperwork will be in order by June 1.

“It sounds like they have every intention of getting things through quickly,” Wright said Thursday. “Between the two cities and the airport, it’s $100,000 in licensing fees that we dropped to get into this market. I’m in 23 regions, and that’s the highest I’ve ever seen.”

The lack of license prevents the company from performing authorized passenger pick-ups in St. Paul. The app indicated Thursday to “please try again once this region becomes active.”

It was unclear Thursday if a lack of license also bars the company from doing passenger drop-offs in St. Paul. Wridz charges drivers a $100 subscription fee, and then — unlike Uber and Lyft — lets them keep 100% of their passenger fares, which Wright said has drawn drivers to the company.


Amini, a Woodbury-based startup consultant, electrical engineer and graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, has made it a goal to have his MOOV drivers keep 80% of each fare, effectively outbidding the two leading ride-hailing companies for labor. As an Afghan refugee who grew up in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, he’s seen firsthand how vital the transportation industry is to immigrant workers.

Logo concepts for Murid Amini’s MOOV rideshare app on display in his home office in Woodbury on Friday, March 24, 2024. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Still, getting MOOV rolling has had its challenges — most notably the licensing and related application fees of around $37,000 in Minneapolis and $41,000 in St. Paul.

Unlike St. Paul, Minneapolis has at least begun the review process for his license while he works out a payment plan, he said. He’d been in talks since March with the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections, he said, and finally reached an agreement May 7.

“They said, ‘OK fine, we’ll take half upfront,’” said Amini, who still is fundraising to come up with the money.

“Technically, I can launch in the suburbs right now,” he added. “I just don’t want to because people will look for rides in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and I don’t want to say we don’t serve this area. At the airport, we’re in the middle of processing our application. We hope to get that done in the next couple weeks.”


Non-emergency medical transport companies, or NEMTs, offer various tiers of service for hospital patients, the elderly and disabled, which can include wheelchair transport and pick-ups by drivers trained in first aid and CPR.

After acquiring the Twin Cities-based start-up Mobility 4 All, Denver-based Carepool now maintains 75 drivers in the metro and is adding more in Duluth, said Massey, Carepool’s Wisconsin-bred CEO, who recently met with regional mobility management program officials in St. Cloud and others from across the state, as well as representatives of major hospitals.

Massey said he’d set his sights on the Twin Cities NEMT market long before the recent Uber and Lyft debacle. He hasn’t ruled out providing the metro with more traditional ridesharing services further down the line.

“We had plans and inroads prior to the pandemic and then put them on hold for a while,” said Massey, who offers Carepool services in seven states, with two others — Arizona and North Carolina — on the horizon. In Wisconsin, Carepool is already one of the largest providers of state-sponsored ridesharing services for the elderly and disabled.

Services can even extend to transporting a passenger into their residence.

Unlike traditional ridesharing companies, “we’re a little more stringent about our interviews and backgrounding process than other rideshares,” Massey said. “Customers can get consistency with the same driver over and over, which passengers really like.”

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