State’s PUC gives CU students a real lesson in entrepreneurship
Peter Blake / Colorado News Agency
A quartet of young Boulderites won an entrepreneurship award from the University of Colorado’s business school for establishing an inexpensive ride-sharing service between Boulder and Denver International Airport.
They picked up a check for $4,000 from the school’s Deming Center for Entrepreneurship in May by winning its “New Venture Challenge.”
So far, so good. What’s wrong with this story?
It’s way too short, is what. The business lasted only a couple of months. You can’t improvise ride-sharing in Colorado! The Public Utilities Commission exists to make sure that nothing upsets the status quo, especially if changes lead to more competition and lower fares.
Rideorama, as the program was called, made the mistake of promoting its business at the airport. The airport ratted it out to the PUC, which threatened the company with fines for running an unlicensed business. The company decided to heed the advice of its lawyers and shut down earlier this month, at least for now.
Casey George, the CEO, explained the business in a video posted on YouTube. Getting to DIA now is “expensive” (taxis) or “inconvenient” (buses or shuttles that make many stops), he said. Rideorama used a Web site “matching drivers going to and from the airport with passengers.”
Drivers offered seats and and set a time and price range. Passengers said how much they were willing to pay and the time they wanted. Both sides posted their Facebook profiles. Rideorama matched driver and passenger. The latter put his money into the company’s PayPal account. When the ride was complete, Rideorama paid the money to the driver—minus 20 percent.
The Colorado Daily identified the four co-founders as Boulder residents George and Abdoul Gobitaka, plus CU alumnus Kamal Sabi and doctoral student Ogheneovo Dible.
The PUC didn’t even have to wait for the existing businesses to complain this time, as it often does. It took action, it said, simply on the basis of fliers that Rideorama had left at DIA. The airport found them, queried the PUC, and the PUC started an investigation.
The PUC, after initially concluding the company didn’t require regulation, changed its mind. Upon further review of the company’s activities and Website, said the agency, “it was determined that Rideorama is operating as a motor carrier and subject to regulation by the PUC.”
The letter noted that since attempted negotiations never happened, a “violation warning” was attached. If Rideorama continues to operate in violation of law, it “will be subject to enforcement action up to and including, civil penalties of approximately $13,000 and prosecution.” …read full column
Veteran Colorado political columnist Peter Blake writes weekly on state issues for the Colorado News Agency.
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