HitchWhistler - to Infinity and Beyond
For two new-comers to Vancouver, it was pretty clear that there simply had to be a better way to get to Whistler than spending $60 on the Greyhound.
Over a pint, Flo Devellennes and Anne-Marie Redhead came up with the concept of HitchWhistler. In the golden age of social media, it made sense to create an online community where people could connect and form ride matches to get to and from Whistler.
"I had the idea and it took me two solid weeks of coding to create HitchWhistler. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades – I'm a designer and I code," explained Flo. "And I covered the marketing and copywriting aspects" added Anne-Marie.
One of the first things you'll notice about the this dedicated carpool service to Whistler is its clean, easy, site navigation. You can either sign up to offer a trip or request a ride. It's free to join, but if you're interested in using the service more than once, you might as well sign up for a $20 membership ($15 for TravelSmart members). With a membership card, you get a verified account as well as discounts and offers in Whistler and Vancouver.
This unique ride-matching service connects drivers and riders, but it's up to the users to agree on terms such as payment. HitchWhistler suggests a $10 or $20 contribution to the driver, but adds that a free ride is always good for karma.
What about safety concerns? One of the main reasons people hesitate to carpool with people they don't know is fear of stranger danger. Flo and Anne Marie have this covered. "We implemented a feedback system where you can comment on the trip as a passenger or driver. The HitchWhistler membership card allows your postal code to be verified, giving an additional layer of protection for users," says Flo.
Just how well has HitchWhistler been going?
With nearly 2,000 members and into its second season, Flo and Anne Marie are rightly pleased with the results. "Our marketing is limited. Apart from distributing fliers, we rely heavily on word of mouth," says Anne-Marie.
Although students and travelers tend to be the most likely users of this digital carpooling matching service between Vancouver and Whistler, lately Flo and Anne-Marie have noticed more and more commuters using the service. The key to the development and growth of HitchWhistler has been the tendency for website enhancements to come in response to suggestions or requests from the community of users.
It's been a labour of love for Flo and Anne-Marie. HitchWhistler has been a successful project they've been working on as a side project in addition to their full time jobs.
What's next? Flo and Anne-Marie have that covered. With HitchTofino, HitchRockies and HitchQuebec already launched, world domination is the likely outcome.
"We keep getting suggestions from people to launch new Hitch websites. Who knows, maybe one day every town will have a Hitch!" suggested Anne-Marie.
Flo Devellennes works at QuickMobile, a Yaletown based start-up company providing mobile event apps for conferences, meetings and festivals. His experience with starting up HitchWhistler has proven his talents in helping companies like QuickMobile get established.
Anne-Marie Redhead specializes in instructional online materials, and is a Curriculum Manager for Stenberg College in Surrey.
Sign up for your HitchWhistler membership and save $5. Log into the TravelSmart members page to get the HitchWhistler discount code.