Uber and Lyft were having a meteoric rise. His peers in the taxi industry were shuttering. So Jerry Crosby waited and watched, developing his idea for another iteration of a ride-hailing service.
His idea is several years in the making. This summer, the longtime cab company owner is ready to put wheels to the pavement.
In coming months, Crosby, of Yellow Cab of Charleston, plans to mount a challenge to the ride-hailing giants operating in the area with an app of his own. His planned launch comes only weeks after both Uber and Lyft raised a combined $10.4 billion in their initial public offerings.
Crosby will be angling for a sliver of the ground transportation market that Uber and Lyft have upended. Uber said in its most recent financial filing it has 93 million customers actively using its platform. Lyft has close to 19 million users, according to Reuters.
Crosby is hoping a few key promises will attract riders and users alike. He will not allow "surge pricing," a feature of other ride-hailing apps that drives rates higher during peak ride times. Prices will be flat, and the same as a standard cab — $2.50 for every mile. And he hopes people will want to support a hometown company.
Crosby said his app — he's named it Select — will allow users to toggle between a taxi and ride-hailing service. He is launching it from his Cherry Hill Lane office, which still sports a bright yellow awning with "Yellow Cab Co." written in bold, old-fashioned print. The company was founded in 1962 by his family.
"Everything we’re going to be doing with the ridesharing world, we’ve been doing for 57 years with the taxi world," Crosby said. “It’s just the next step of the evolution of our business.”
The family still keeps Crosby's Fish and Shrimp, started on James Island years after the cab company, in 1973.
Not surprisingly, the taxi business took a hit as the ride-hailing trend caught on and expanded. Yellow Cab has proven resilient enough up to this point. Crosby said the cab operation still runs thousands of calls a week from people who are resistant to ride-hailing and don't want to use an app.
The taxi business in South Carolina watched Uber from afar for several years. Its service went live in San Francisco in mid-2010. Uber even went abroad to Mexico, Canada and India before landing in South Carolina in mid-2014.
Early on, the service faced resistance. In January 2015, it was ordered to cease operations in South Carolina while local and state lawmakers hashed out how it should be regulated.
Crosby was among those who went before Charleston City Council to argue that taxis and this oncoming wave of freelance drivers should be regulated equally.
Then, state legislators worked out a law in Columbia regulating ride-hailing businesses, which they called "transportation network companies."
The law required the likes of Uber and Lyft, which expanded to the Palmetto State in 2016, to apply for a permit to operate.
Today, just a handful of companies are authorized to pick up passengers. They include Uber, Lyft, Spot a Ride Technologies and Uzurv360, according to the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff.
Crosby's Select joined the group as the fifth competitor when it obtained its permit on Feb. 8.
For local drivers who might consider signing up for Select, the no-surge-pricing policy could be a deterrent.
Matt Lush drives for Uber in Charleston as a temporary gig, working 12-hour shifts mostly on the weekends. Surge pricing isn't essential to a successful shift, but he said he tries to maximize the number of rides he takes during those periods.
Still, Lush could see himself driving for Select during off-peak hours though he cautioned that newcomers to the industry will likely struggle to compete.
"I would absolutely want to support Select," he said. "It might make Uber sit up and take notice."
Sara Jade Alfonso drove for Uber when she and her husband started having children, as a flexible way to make extra money. She found that trying to time her shifts to coincide with the unpredictable surge periods wasn't worth the trouble.
"It's a guessing game all the time," she said.
Alfonso, who quit driving recently for a full-time job, was undecided about Select. Uber and Lyft run repeated background checks on their drivers. She wondered whether Select would be as thorough.
Crosby cited his company's experience working in the cab business as a security blanket, beyond the background checks they will conduct on their independent contractors.
He has no delusions that his small startup will unseat the likes of Uber or Lyft, now the entrenched and well-funded Goliaths of the industry, even if they aren't making any money.
For drivers and riders alike, Crosby has one request: "Just make us an option."