We’re all used to chatty cab drivers – talking about their day, the weather, politics.
But perhaps none as chatty, and persuasive, as Sydneysider David Wareing. He has now managed to turn two separate passengers, complete strangers to both him and each other, into business partners.
One Uber ride which lasted less than six minutes led to a business relationship that has now lasted four years and spawned two companies with thousands of customers
“As an Uber driver I didn’t want to sit in a car with a passenger for 25 minutes in stone cold silence, “Mr Wareing said.
“So, I became quite good at listening and open to a broad set of conversations.
“Once most people left the Uber, that was it, the conversation bubble was burst. But with these two I talked to and we both ended up as business partners with healthy and successful relationships.”
With his partners that he found in his Uber, Tim Nicholas and Silje Dreyer, Mr Wareing has now set up an app called RepeatBooking that helps small business owners contact their previous customers to see if they might need their services again.
The new app follows on from an original service called GetReminded that allows users to set alerts to renew important documents, like a driving licence.
But the business and the apps might never have happened were it not for his decision to start Uber driving when he returned to Australia in 2017 after a stint overseas.
From Uber passenger to business partner
“I’d been working in Singapore for 10 years as a marketing executive for a car company,” Mr Wareing said.
“I landed back in Australia and to reimmerse myself in Sydney, I decided to start Uber driving which at the time was this new thing and unusual enterprise that I wanted to be involved in.”
Driving around Sydney’s north shore, he picked up Mr Nicholas outside Chatswood station.
“His train had been cancelled and he unexpectedly had to call an Uber. So, it’s kind of Sydney Trains’ fault we met.
“We got talking and Tim and I realised we both specialised in an area of marketing that wasn’t very common and then we had this really engaging conversation. And that can be rare.”
Mr Wareing pitched his idea for an app and his passenger thought it had legs. Cards were exchanged and, he said, “It wasn’t even a week,” before he was back in Chatswood sitting down with his soon to be business partner to thrash out the details.
The business took several months to get into gear, and the pair needed to bring some new people on board with other skills.
Mr Wareing insisted he didn’t go crawling around the streets of Sydney scouring for business partners. Nonetheless, that’s exactly where he found Ms Dreyer.
“It may sound calculating but it was just serendipitous,” he said.
“We were lacking technical and UX (user experience) talent but didn’t have hundreds and thousands to spend on contractors and consultants.
“Silje had booked a cab but it hadn’t arrived so she decided to go on her first ever Uber ride. And I turned up.
“The ride was just six minutes long.”
Ms Dreyer had taken some time out to have kids and was looking for her next move. She had exactly the skills Mr Wareing and Mr Nicholas needed.
“I remember calling Tim and saying, ‘I’ve found the perfect person for us.’”
“It’s now a very successful partnership and visually the apps are all her work.”
How the apps work
GetReminded was born shortly afterwards. That app has now has 40,000 users and has sent 130,000 reminders about everything from vehicle rego to paying credit card bills.
It’s a free app, but the company also has deals with a number of providers. Users might be sent through no more than three alternative offers with their reminders. A new mobile phone plan with another carrier, perhaps, when their old contract is almost up.
These companies either pay GetReminded for the privilege of being able to target offers to their customers; or GetReminded will get a commission if a user takes up one of the offers.
But, of course, customers can choose to ignore the offers.
The new app is called RepeatBooking. It uses the same concept of sending timely reminders but is aimed at small businesses.
Mr Wareing said he came up with the idea when he couldn’t find the number for an oven cleaner he had used previously and liked.
If the oven cleaner had been reminded to call him, say, six months after the first job he would have booked them again.
Gave up Uber for apps
“RepeatBooking is built for tradespeople and small business owners to enjoy the level of automated marketing that many big businesses have,” Mr Wareing said.
“So a subscriber will upload their clients and we send reminders to their customers so they have predictability and continuance in their business.”
For instance, a customer of a window cleaner might be sent a message, a few months down the line, to see if they want their windows polished again.
“It’s a really great inexpensive tool for small businesses.”
The three have ambitious plans for the business. But they’re not self-made millionaires yet, Mr Wareing said.
“GetReminded and RepeatBooking are both pre-revenue but they’re on the cusp of becoming growth businesses.”
Indeed, when the apps were being created, Mr Wareing continued to make some cash out of Uber driving. He would spruik his app to each passenger to see if the idea made sense and people would use it.
But after exactly 9999 Uber fares he decided to step back from behind the wheel. In his head, he just didn’t want to make it to the 10,000 trips milestone; he wanted to become an app entrepreneur instead.
“But I never got a negative response about my business idea in all those 9999 trips.”
And he picked up two very successful fares along the way.