Nashville startup Earth Rides offers an electric vehicle alternative to Uber, Lyft.

Earth Rides had 20 employees at the start of 2021 and now has 40, she said, and the business is profitable.

While they don’t have the same national user base as Uber and Lyft, a handful of smaller startups, including Earth Rides, have sought a niche in cycling. Ride Austin was a non-profit organization that operated between 2016 and 2020, but sealed after suspension of operations at the start of the pandemic last year.

Alto launched in Dallas in 2018 with 10 company-owned cars and now serves cyclists in that city as well as in Houston and Fort Worth, Texas and Los Angeles. Next month, Iizi will enter service in North Carolina.

Competition with national incumbents requires a marketing plan carried out on a shoestring budget and largely dependent on word of mouth, according to Hernandez. For Earth Rides, a series of partnerships with local universities, restaurants, Airbnb hosts, apartment complexes, and more.

“How do we meet people where they are? How can we find these people without spending a lot of money on this advertising and marketing,” she said. “We wanted to keep our costs low, so we knew we had to do something different to get people into the car.”

Earth Rides is also working with communities in Nashville to ensure residents with disabilities who otherwise would not have access to transportation get to where they need to go. Whether it’s offering these rides or helping cut pollution, Hernandez sees it all as a chance to give back to his hometown.

“There are children who are in displaced homes, and they can’t even use the school bus system, so how do they get to school?” she asked. “There are so many opportunities in the transportation industry. So I think it’s imperative that I’m here to be an asset.”

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