As Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quits President Donald Trump’s advisory council under pressure from drivers, competing service Juno is borrowing a page from Lyft and trying to take advantage of the dominant ride-hailing service’s crisis moment. The upstart company issued a formal statement noting that it will help workers affected by Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. “Juno was founded with a mission of Social Responsibility. For us, this is not just a business decision, but a way of life,” the statement reads.
Granted, they’re a little late to the game, considering that Uber and Lyft issued similar statements in the days after Trump’s executive order. On Saturday, Uber sent out a note to consumers saying that it would not be activating its surge pricing mechanism for rides coming and going from JFK airport. Some took the note as an attempt to take advantage of protesting taxi drivers, triggering a grassroots campaign to #deleteuber. And a number of Uber users had difficulty deleting the app, further fueling criticism of the company. Amid the chaos, competitor Lyft offered to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, further building support for Uber’s main competitor.
Juno, which emerged in May 2016, pitches itself as a more ethical Uber. It’s built around treating its drivers well, offering them both better wages, support, and a slice of equity. While it’s a tiny player in the overall ride-sharing space, only operating in beta in New York, Juno may be well positioned. Under a Trump administration, its ethical stance may also be good for business, attracting riders eager to choose a brand based on the values they publicize.
CEO Talmon Marco, himself an immigrant, says he was reluctant to make any noise on the issue since Juno is as he says, “not a political organization.” But, because the company’s drivers are nearly all immigrant workers and there has been increased interest in Juno in the wake of #deleteuber, he feels the company has to come out with something more official.
“I don’t think being in the U.S. and saying that you stand for freedom is necessarily making a political statement,” says Marco. “America at the end of the day was built by immigrants for immigrants.”
While Lyft has seen a significant boost in app downloads as a result of the protest, so too has Juno. Since launching, Juno has ranked as one of the top 50 travel apps on mobile ranking platform App Annie. As of Monday, it also ranked in the top 1,200 apps in the U.S. Prior to that, it didn’t rank at all among overall apps. It may not seem like a significant increase, but for an app that operates in just one city, every new user makes a difference.
Marco says Juno has seen ridership increase by double-digit percentages over the last few days. “Some of this might be seasonal, but it seems like more than that,” says Marco. On Twitter, people from Boston and Washington, D.C. have begun inquiring when Juno will come to their cities.
Juno is not promising to donate funding to the ACLU or create a $3 million legal defense fund for drivers, as Uber has done. Talman claims that when you’re known for being good to your drivers, you don’t have to make those kinds of grand gestures. “If you’re tall, you don’t need to shout,” he says by way of comparison. “If you stand for social responsibility….” he trails off, implying that people should already know.
Here is Juno’s full statement:
“Juno was founded with a mission of Social Responsibility. For us, this is not just a business decision, but a way of life.
As a New York based service, the vast majority of our drivers and many of our riders are immigrants. They came into this great country in the Pursuit of Happiness, just as envisioned in the Declaration of Independence. Banning immigrants based on their religion is fundamentally wrong and goes against everything America stands for.
Juno will be working with affected drivers during this time to ensure they can provide for themselves and their families.”