What started out as a 2 a.m. brainstorming session of ways to promote their app, Hashtaggy, turned into the trip of a lifetime for University of Utah students Ryan Bliss, Josiah Purss and Daniel Ruales. The band of entrepreneurs set out to travel from New York to San Francisco using only Uber, hitting 14 cities along the way.
“The purpose behind Hashtaggy is to find adventure and to meet other people from all different backgrounds,” said Bliss, who studies finance and computer science at the U. “We figured if we are going to be trying to tell people to do that, we should probably live it ourselves.”
After looking through world records, Ruales found that the longest Uber ride was 397 miles. The team decided to attempt to break the record by traveling 3,246 miles.
“I think the coolest part is it’s something that I never expected to be a world record holder in, and [it’s] something that is really unique,” said recent U grad, Purss.
The Uber rides alone cost $3,696.32, so the team set out to raise $3,500 through a Kickstarter campaign. The additional money plus lodging and food came out of pocket.
“We actually had to amend our route part way through, because it was getting a bit too expensive,” Purss said, explaining how their plan changed from 16 cities to the 14 they visited.
The on-demand car service gave the team not only an opportunity to make history, but a chance to see the United States in a new light.
“With Uber, what we really liked about it was that you would be driving across the country and stopping in different cities, but on the way it wouldn’t just be you driving,” Bliss raved. “You would be meeting a new person in every city. With every new person you met was a different story that you could hear.”
With 14 different cities came 14 different Uber drivers with 14 different stories.
“It really made us realize how diverse and how many different people with incredible stories live in this country and how many of them are struggling still and how many immigrants come to this country and really are fighting for their family, for their freedom, and [they] really love this country,” Bliss said.
Purss has a vlog on his YouTube channel chronicling their adventures that feature singing, fountain swimming, exploring the various cities and interviews with their Uber drivers. The drivers will be the stars of a short documentary titled “Backseat Stories.” Purss is editing it to share the tales of seemingly ordinary people across the nation.
“What’s interesting is the drivers. What’s interesting is not us,” Bliss said. “Some of the stories that we heard from these drivers were honestly life changing for me and I know for some of the other guys as well.”
After this expedition, the group is already brainstorming for their next adventure.
“Still waiting to see how [the documentary] pans out and where that takes us,” Purss said. “And then after that, I’m sure we’ll be thinking up something else interesting and crazy and a little bit stupid to do.”