How ‘Uber for Women’ hooked the media with just a snappy story and store-bought scripts

Chariots for Women is not built on new innovations, says Mic Wright, just the awareness that the press wanted to write about a ‘female-friendly Uber’…

How easy is it to get the press to brand you the ‘new Uber’? An off-the-shelf script, a snappy narrative and a little bit of cash. That’s it.

Though founded by a man — former Uber driver Michael Pelletz — Chariot for Women is touted as an ‘Uber for women’ with female drivers serving a female clientele, with the added benefit of donating a proportion of the profits to women’s charities.

It’s a strong hook and one that has, so far, grabbed Slate, Quartz, Glamour, USA Today, The Daily Mail, The Boston Globe, TechCrunch, Time and many others.

The few that have flagged up any problems with the idea have focused on the potential legal challenges to a business that aims to serve only women. But there’s something else…

For all the talk of ‘patent-pending technology’ in the reports, ‘Chariot for Women’ is an off-the-shelf creation, using a script that anyone with a little money can buy and customize.

My initial suspicions — the stories read as good to be true — were supported by a tip-off that the app looked rather too much like another ride-sharing app called Kartrip.

From there, I was led to On-Demand Bay, which sells the taxi service script used by Kartrip and now by Chariot for Women. The On-Demand Bay site boasts that nearly 8,000 customers have grabbed its ‘Uber like Taxi’ script.

The generic screen for On-Demand Bay’s ‘Uber for Taxi’ app

When I found my way to Chariot’s admin login page, I found it’s an exact copy of the one used by the ‘Uber like Taxi’ script, all but for a broken logo.

Of course, tech is cheap — many major apps use off-the-shelf scripts and open source frameworks as their backbone — it’s the ideas and execution that often makes these services standout.

I’m not blaming ‘Chariot for Women’ for hustling press, though the idea is flawed in lots of ways. I’m more interested in the way that so many outlets just took the narrative offered to them and ran with it.

It’s easily done. Tech journalists are often under pressure to push out a certain of number of stories and bombarded with tonnes of press releases offering easy to swallow lines.

In Chariot for Women’s case, its story used the magic word ‘Uber’ and tapped in to one of the biggest criticisms of the all-pervasive ride-sharing service: That women don’t feel safe.

But it’s not doing anything new technically, hasn’t launched yet — that’s apparently due on April 19th — and has to change its name before it does. There’s already a ride-sharing app called ‘Chariot’ on the App Store.

There’s no way that ‘Chariot for Women’ should have passed the sniff test at any of the outlets that have covered it. It’s a notion for a service right now, something being built, rather that a real thing. You’d have thought more journalists might have checked that.

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