Lifestyle

Fasten creates an Uber-meets-Foursquare site, starting with Austinites at SXSW

What if Uber could not only help you get somewhere but suggest where you should go

And what if it wasn’t Uber but another ride-hailing app that isn’t riddled with controversy?

As of today, there is an option (for SXSW): Fasten released Tuesday a website called “Fasten Vouch.” Instead of relying on just recommendations from friends or random reviews online, Fasten users, or anyone, can rely on this website to understand where people (locals and visitors) are actually going.

Timed with the rest of the South by Southwest conference, the feature is only available in Austin, Texas. But the company, which positions itself as the third major ride-hailing player in the United States under Uber and Lyft, is hoping to expand to other cities as they grow.

Image: fasten

The website is powered by Google’s Places API. But it adds the layer of Fasten’s data for users, now up to 2 million rides in Austin. For now, the website is the same for everyone, but in the future, the company plans to release personal recommendations.

“Ride-sharing companies are the only folks that know where people are actually going,” said Fasten CEO Kirill Evdakov. “First step is to share data and give decent recommendations, but moving forward we will allow destinations to sponsor rides to them.”

It’s the first step to a much bigger ambition to partner with restaurants and other businesses and create a new form of advertising. Instead of paying for clicks or impressions, as businesses do on Facebook and Google, Fasten says they can charge business owners for having actual people come to an establishment.

This effort could also eliminate the “necessary evil,” Evdakov said, of consumers having to pay for a ride somewhere and simultaneously increase a business’s activity.

“If you want your bar to be filled in at a specific time for people who are going to your competitors, whatever you want, we have the settings,” Evdakov said. “We know the power of free rides. If you give away free rides, people will take them. We’re trying to find more ways to make rides more affordable.”

For now, Fasten riders only have access to a $5 voucher off their first ride.

Uber and Lyft have yet to release a real-time website similar to this nor talk publicly about such a marketing strategy. Though, Uber did redesign its app to show Foursquare and Yelp data and could easily do the same. Lyft also publicly releases the most trending places each year.

“If the idea is great, people will copy it. But Google and Yelp haven’t yet. First you have to build a great ride-sharing app, and that isn’t easy,” Evdakov said. “That’s why the big three, Uber, Lyft, us will pretty much have same approaches.”

But where Fasten wins, Evdakov said, is through its complete dedication to drivers. “So far, a lot of [work in the ride-hailing industry] has been done at the expense of drivers. That’s what we have general beef with,” he said.