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Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul.
Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul.

The Verge story that published earlier this week and exposed Uber’s questionable recruiting tactics was a shock to many. After learning how Uber’s independent contractors take Lyft rides as a way to recruit new drivers — and sometimes canceling those rides to avoid being caught by Lyft — many vowed never to use Uber again.

Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul, however, wasn’t surprised at all.

Paul, whose company is far smaller than Uber and Lyft in terms of funding and ridership numbers, told GeekWire this afternoon that he’s seen Uber use similar tactics with Sidecar drivers.

“Frankly, it’s not surprising given the reputation and culture of [Uber],” Paul said via telephone.

Sidecar lets riders pick their drivers, who in turn can set their own prices.
Sidecar lets riders pick their drivers, who in turn can set their own prices.

Paul said there’s a difference between simply interviewing another driver with open disclosure, and doing it in a way that avoids detection.

“I think they cross the line when they are purposely deceiving the other side,” he said of Uber.

Sidecar competes directly with Uber and Lyft, but it has unique features that differentiate itself from the two giants. Back in February, the company shifted to a marketplace model where drivers set their own prices and riders get to pick their own rides based on cost, vehicle quality, and other options. Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, still dictate fares and assign drivers with passengers.

While those two heavyweights have thrown public punches at one another for the past year, Sidecar has quietly stayed out of the ring. Yet the San Francisco-based startup, which has raised $20 million and is operating in eight cities, is still growing fast and has kept its prices competitive with Uber and Lyft.

sidecar212In fact, Paul said many Sidecar drivers came to the company after working with Uber.

“They migrate to Sidecar because of their experiences on UberX,” he explained. “They like the experience of being on Sidecar, the flexibility — it’s a totally different vibe. They are in more control of their life, their day. We’ve leaned on that as a way to compete.”

While Sidecar pays attention to its competition, it isn’t “overly obsessed with how they’re doing,” as Paul described. He also noted how there is lots of room for successful companies in this new transportation space, despite the fact that The Verge story called ride-sharing a “zero-sum game.”

“That is a very narrow view of the world,” Paul said. “There will be lots of winners in this category.”

Paul said that Sidecar has plans to expand into more cities, but wouldn’t specify exact timing.

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