We deliver community-based mass transit service, powered by a thriving network of drivers & small business owners in underserved markets.

Photo of Su Sanni
2 1

Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

1. New York: New York City/Manhattan 10013
2. New York: New York City/Manhattan 10018
3. New York: New York City/Brooklyn 11226
4. New York: New York City/Queens 11432
5. New York: New York City/Bronx 10466

(Source: New Yorker. "New York’s Shadow Transit."

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Human Rights & Equality

Date Started


Organization Type

  • for-profit

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)


  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL

Facebook URL

LinkedIn URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

In 2016, I had the “Aha” moment when I was contracted by a group of “dollar van” operators (i.e. the companies that employ the drivers) to survey their passengers in order to understand how they could improve their private transit service and grow their businesses.
In my research, I found that the prevailing issue inhibiting the growth of the dollar van network was its traditional cash-only system of operations, which keeps the network offline and disconnected from the larger NYC market. This was alarming because the drivers generate over $70M/year in cash, despite the fact that 86% of passengers I surveyed reported they would accept higher fares per ride, in exchange for the convenience of paying digitally (i.e credit cards).

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Serving the outer boroughs of NYC for over 30 years, 400+ dollar vans reduce 150M lbs of CO2 annually and mobilize 140K low-income and immigrant passengers daily. However, because the service is still offline, drivers and operators experience painful systemic issues like theft, poor visibility into their business operations, and no access to bank financing. Without incorporating technology, expanding private transit service is nearly impossible.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Dollaride’s solution is to add a digital service layer to the existing “dollar van” network in NYC, bringing the community from the offline world into the online world. Dollaride’s online service includes mobile apps for drivers & passengers, and a free online fleet management platform for Operators.

For drivers, the mobile app will allow them to accept debit/credit cards and deliver a more transparent transit service with ETAs. The app keeps track of all payment transactions and helps drivers identify new territories where there is sufficient consumer demand to warrant a new route.

The Dollaride app helps passengers see nearby drivers and active routes in real-time from a digital map, as opposed to relying on word-of-mouth and street-hailing in order to catch a ride.

The fleet management system will finally give Operators the ability to monitor their true earning across all drivers, as well as stay compliant with the regulatory requirements from the TLC and DOT. Most importantly, our solution digitizes their operations in ways that will make it easier for them to obtain financing and expand their service territory without the risks associated with an all-cash business.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Winston Williams is a well-known dollar van driver in Brooklyn, who also owns Black Street Van Lines (i.e. he’s also an Operator, employing 20+ drivers). For years, Winston has had his eyes on establishing new routes in East New York, Brooklyn, where recently bus service has been reduced because of city budget cuts. Although Winston’s intuition is 100% right, his business is offline - so he simply cannot afford to risk taking his drivers or himself off their current routes without knowing that the new routes in East NY will have sufficient passenger demand.

Because Dollaride’s app can predict and quantify passenger demand in any neighborhood, Winston can use the app to uncover exactly when it’ll be lucrative to open additional routes in new territories. By de-risking these decisions to expand, Winston can grow his small business by meeting the transit needs of more people in Brooklyn.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Dollaride's platform supports the needs of small business owners & commercial drivers, who currently deliver micro-transit service in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, NY. Uncoincidentally, in the low income areas are where we have significant transit deserts in which est. 700K New Yorkers reside.
By empowering the supply side of this transit network (ie 500+ drivers, 40+ operators), we’ll make an economic & social impact on underserved communities that are starving for better transit options.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • geography
  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • age - elder
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Chariot and VIA are shared SUV & minivan services in NYC serving an affluent market (i.e. urban professionals with corporate jobs). Both companies have modern vehicles from partnerships with Ford and Mercedes Benz respectively, but the cost of a typical fare is $7/ride.

Dollaride serves the working class living in low-income neighborhoods with fares of $2.25/ride. We also give drivers a platform to stay legally compliant and expand their business as independent entrepreneurs. Whereas Chariot and Via employ their drivers as W2 employees, resulting in a more expensive service to passengers.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far, Dollaride has made a difference by changing the public’s perception of the dollar van community, resulting in the following opportunities:

-NYC gov’t is considering dollar vans as a resource to the 400K daily riders who’ll be displaced when the popular L subway line shuts down for 15 months for repairs (2019)
-Piloting a custom group insurance policy (min. 100 drivers) with ATIC, potentially cutting driver insurance costs by up to 30%
-Support from State and City policymakers (NY Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Councilman Jumaane Williams)
-Media coverage uncovering the challenges felt by NYC drivers and passengers (NY Times, CUNY TV (video attached))

I’m excited about the impact we’ll make this summer, as we improve 200+ driver profiles by making them appear professional and more accessible in Dollaride’s app. But I’m certainly not satisfied yet...we have a lot more to do.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

5 strategies to scale impact:
Promotion: using online content, social media, and grassroots marketing in targeted locales to cheaply build awareness
Acquisition: to onboard drivers, we’ll partner with operators (ie. my 2 uncles), and orgs like the Commuter Van Association of NY
Training: partner with local driving schools to ensure drivers have requisite training and licenses (CDL)
Pipeline Development: training drivers to become small business owners (operators)
Support: continually upgrade tech platform & supply-chain partners to support transit network growth at scale/across cities.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Open Sourcing
  • Campaigns

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Dollaride’s revenue comes from taking a $0.25 service fee on top of each $2 fare. This business model allows us to keep fares low for passengers without decreasing the take-home pay of drivers. We breakeven at 5K rides/day (Nov ‘18).
We also plan to sell the research data we collect on the impact of transit deserts to urban planners, local gov't agencies & foundations.
However, we’ll eventually need to raise venture capital and major grant funding to scale operations across multiple cities.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Su Sanni, 3x founder - 8+ yrs experience with bus dev, marketing, sales & fundraising.
Chris Coles, CTO, Computer Science (Columbia University) - 5+ yrs software engineering at venture-backed startups (Loverly, Simplifeye).
Ai Kurobe, UI/UX - 10+ yrs designing mobile/web products for brands (Infor, Deloitte).
Prof Eric Goldwyn, Ph.D. (NYU) - expert on decentralized transit networks in urban cities.

With growth, will hire data scientists, more engineers. operations & logistics managers.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)
  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Ashoka page or contact

Attachments (1)


View the pitch deck, where we break down the problem, solution, market opportunity, business model, growth strategy, and key differentiators between Dollaride and other ride-sharing services.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Patty Hall

great idea. Concern that it will become another uber/lyft company- and while not bad, just not unique.

Photo of Su Sanni

Hey Patty, thanks for your feedback! If you unpack your feedback a little more, I think it'll be more actionable for our team.

Perhaps, could you expand on your commentary about your "concern it will become another uber/lyft company"?

For example, I'm curious about...
- what aspect of our entry triggered your concern that we'd become another Uber/Lyft? ...and become like them in what way?

re: "and while not bad, just not unique."
- what's the value of being unique in an underserved market where the consumer's transit needs aren't being met by any existing providers?
- what other ride-sharing services do you know of that use high capacity vehicles (i.e. 15-22 passenger vans/mini-buses) to serve under-resourced communities for $2 per fare?

Thanks for taking a look!