Could Juno Change The Rideshare World For The Better?

Juno NYC

It’s probably not a surprise that I hear about a lot of new rideshare apps.  But over the past couple months, one name has kept coming up.  At first, it was a reporter asking questions about a new rideshare company in New York called Juno, but I couldn’t find anything by Googling it.  I figured it was just another ‘landing-page’ start-up that was more of an idea than an actual company.

Then a couple of drivers started e-mailing me about it, but even this wasn’t out of the ordinary.  I get a lot of e-mails about lots of new companies but the fact that there was no information outside of a single Juno e-mail address definitely piqued my interest.

New TNC App Juno
One of the earliest e-mails I received about Juno

This week, news broke that Juno is not only a new rideshare company, but they appear to be a pretty legit one at that.

Sign up for Juno

Juno is now accepting pre-registration.  You can sign up here using our referral link or our code: 5335-180

What Makes Juno Different From The Rest?

Juno’s website is really more of a landing page than anything, but behind that landing page is what’s impressive.  Juno’s founder and CEO is a guy named Talmon Marco, who founded and sold the messaging app Viber to Rakuten in 2014 for $900 million.  I don’t know what Viber is, but I do know that $900 million is a lot of money.

Currently, Juno is paying rideshare drivers in NYC $25/week just to carry their devices around while they’re working for other apps (Uber, Lyft, Gett, etc).  They’ll be launching at some point in the spring.

There are lots of new driver-friendly rideshare apps these days but none of them have been backed by this type of team and funding.  Juno has already raised ‘8 digit funding’, secured a 10,000 square foot building in NYC and it’s been reported that they have 100 people working for them across the globe.

So while their site may only be a landing page for now, they are most definitely a very real company.

Juno Wants To Treat Drivers Better

Obviously this is the part that stood out to me since we all know how Uber tends to shift risk onto its workers (rideshare insurance anyone?) and treat drivers more like disposable commodities than, well, drivers.  And I’ve also written extensively about the changes drivers want to see from Uber, yet nothing has really happened.  Guess I don’t hold as much power as I thought I did..

Here’s what Juno is planning on doing for drivers:

  • Higher Pay: Marco has stated that Juno won’t try to compete on price with Uber and Lyft.  They aim to distinguish themselves with superior service.  For drivers, that’s a sigh of relief since fare cuts are not something that puts more money in their pockets.
  • 10% Commission: Compared to Uber’s 20-30%, a 10% commission seems very reasonable.  It’s yet to be determined if they’ll have safe ride booking fees but let’s hope not.
  • 24/7 Customer Service For Drivers and Passengers: Yes, you read that right, Juno will have an actual phone line with a human being on the other end who you’ll be able to call in and talk to.  No more e-mail exchanges with outsourced CS reps who have never spent a second behind the wheel.
  • In-app tipping: Drivers have been begging Uber for an in app tipping option and those requests have clearly fallen on deaf ears.  Juno plans on allowing tips for drivers.
  • Contractors or Employees: One simple way to avoid getting sued is to allow drivers to be employees or independent contractors and that’s exactly what Juno plans on doing.
  • Equity For Drivers: Juno will reserve 50% of its founding shares for drivers.  That doesn’t mean drivers will get half of the company but it will be a sizable chunk and drivers will be subject to the same dilution as the founders.

Those things all sound great on the surface, but what stands out to me is that they address a lot of the major pain points Uber drivers have with the company.  The executives at Juno have clearly done their homework and are looking to take advantage of Uber’s biggest weaknesses.

But the real question is how will they build up demand on the passenger side of the equation?

Driver-First Apps Don’t Have A Great Track Record

Uber has clearly taken the approach that passengers come first when it comes to rideshare and it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t worked (see: $62.5 billion valuation).  But at the same time, there’s also no denying that drivers are less happy than ever, and the drivers are a big part of why Uber has been so successful.

My recent survey put Uber drivers’ satisfaction level at just 48% which isn’t exactly the epitome of a happy workforce.  I’ve always felt that Lyft treats their drivers better and cultivates a much stronger sense of community, yet most drivers still work for Uber because that’s where the rides are.

Juno could be the driver-friendliest company on the planet but if they don’t have the passenger demand to back it up, drivers aren’t going to exactly flock to support it.  It’s clear to me that Juno won’t have a problem attracting drivers, there are plenty of drivers willing to sign up for a company that treats them with some respect.

But the real test will be whether they can recruit enough passengers?

It’s still early but Juno’s initial marketing strategy appears to hinge on leveraging drivers to promote the company.  I don’t know if it will work, but I think it’s a great idea.  Uber and Lyft are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing, subsidies, incentives and bonuses to encourage growth but Juno plans on flipping that script.

Can Juno Dethrone Uber?

One of the things I love about Juno’s approach is that they’re not trying to just break into the rideshare game and make some noise.  They are going after Uber.

In fact, they’re really taking a page out of Uber’s playbook since one of the big reasons why Uber gained market share so quickly is because they addressed all of the pain points that people had with taxis.  Uber enabled the ability to hail a car with an app, pay with credit card, not have to tip, and hold drivers accountable with a ratings system.  All of which you couldn’t do very easily before with taxis.

Uber is so hyper-focused on growth right now, they have put a lot of low hanging fruits on the back-burner and it appears that they might have some real competition now.  Uber has obviously done some amazing things in the past couple years but they are far from perfect.  De-throning them is not going to happen overnight, but it appears that Juno is off to a pretty good start.

Sign up for Juno

Juno is now accepting pre-registration.  You can sign up here using our referral link or our code: 5335-180

Drivers, what do you think about Juno?  Do they seem like a legitimate threat to Uber’s business model or will they struggle to gain market share?

-Harry @ RSG