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Calgary’s Next Economy: Wilma Technologies creating safe rideshare for women

Mary Morrison said she and co-founder Terri Phipps wanted to create a safe space for women needing transportation.

Morrison said that for people who travel, there isn’t one person without a story about taxis or rideshares – good, bad or otherwise.

“The challenge being, as a woman or gender diverse person, there isn’t an option for me. There is always a chance I’m taking,” Morrison said.

The pair came up with Wilma Technologies – a women-driving-women membership rideshare platform. The focus is providing safe passage for women.

It’s named after Wilma Russey. In 1915, Russey became the first female taxi driver in New York City.   While she was also a mechanic, Morrison said Russey wanted other women to get home safely.  

Further, Morrison added, the name Wilma means “resolute protector.”

She recalled a downtown Vancouver meeting with Phipps where she was transported by Uber. Morrison was a little late, and she told Phipps that the hotel kept calling her to make sure she was safe.

That’s when Phipps recounted a story from Houston about a woman who hailed rideshare from the airport and kept getting further from the hotel. She said her boss was tracking her and the driver immediately dumped her off. The woman posted the encounter online and had thousands of similar experience responses

“Terry, and I just said, ‘there has to be a solution for this,” Morrison said.

“How can we create a community that empowers women to have not only an opportunity to have a woman driver, but have a woman driver all the time, and that woman driver being paid appropriately.”

Morrison said it’s also safer for the woman driver as well. She said many women drivers don’t report assaults for fear of losing their jobs.

That’s where Wilma Technologies fits in, said Morrison.  

Testing the idea

Morrison, who, along with Phipps, have been successful women in business, said one of the best parts of the Alberta Catalyzer – Velocity program is being with others in their entrepreneurial journey.

“As founders, it’s pretty lonely and you’re always on the stage,” Morrison said.

“You’re always putting your best self out there. Sometimes you just need to be vulnerable and you need to find other people that are where you’re at on the journey.”

She also said it’s been great to bullet-test their idea. It’s been especially good having the subject matter experts and the coaches come in and poke holes in it.

“As founders, we don’t talk that way to each other, and I and I think that has been hugely beneficial for me,” Morrison said.

Step one is building the rideshare brand. It’s being launched in London, Ontario to start. They’re ready to go in Toronto as well. Morrison said it’s important to launch in cities where they know there’s a strong rideshare market and available female drivers.

The goal, however, is to build Wilma into a brand, she said.

Morrison went back to the idea of creating a community as a part of the membership platform.

“We really do amplify everything about ride-hailing,” she said.

“We also need to amplify if you have a good or service that you think would be great for the Wilma platform, then I want to talk to you.”