U niversity of Colorado sophomore Alex Kiziah pulled his green, 2000 Honda CRV in front of a strange house in Boulder at 3:30 a.m.
Kiziah loaded two suitcases in the back while a Jamaican couple climbed into the back seat and buckled up. A few questions and 45 minutes later, Kiziah dropped the couple off at Denver International Airport to catch their flight home.
"When I picked them up we were complete strangers," Kiziah said, "but after taking them to the airport and talking we learned a lot about each other."
Kiziah is one of the early adopters of a new Boulder service, Rideorama, that pairs drivers with passengers who are willing to pay for a cheap and convenient ride to or from DIA.
Rideorama founders consist of CU alumnus Kamal Sabi, CU doctoral student Ogheneovo Dible and Boulder residents Casey George and Abdoul Gobitaka. The four compared the service to Ebay for transportation to the airport.
"The price is set by the community," George said.
"Drivers go to the website and offer us seats in their car and tell us how much that costs," he said. "In the same way, passengers can say how much they're willing to pay to get to airport and then we pair them up."
People log in to the site with their Facebook profiles and post their desired date and time of pick up, along with the price they're willing to pay. Once the Rideorama staff finds a match, they email the driver and passenger to confirm and exchange contact information.
Rideorama holds the funds from the passenger in a Paypal account until the ride is complete. The company keeps 20 percent and pays the remaining balance to the driver.
The website -- rideorama.com -- was launched in March just before spring break. The founders were hoping to reach students who were leaving town for the weeklong break. The early launch began a pilot program to work out some kinks before the official launch this week.
The team won CU's New Venture Challenge -- a business competition hosted by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship -- and took home $4,000 to use toward the development of the company's site.
Over the summer, the Rideorama team is hoping to add a rating system and reviews to the website. They are also planning to create a smartphone application to give riders landing at DIA easier access to the service.
Eventually, the founders said they would like to expand outside of Colorado to other airports, but they're waiting until they "get the formula right," before they expand.
Sabi and his cousin Gobitaka began talking about the idea for the site last year during trips to Europe where they used a similar service in Germany, Munich and Paris.
"Everybody recommends that over there," Sabi said. "It's so much cheaper and easier than trying to use the train."
The group said they know there are shuttle services that offer similar group transportation to and from DIA, but their prices are lower:
Shared Ride Vans cost about $35 per person, one way; Super Shuttle estimates the cost from Boulder's St. Julien Hotel to DIA at $27 per person, one way; TaxiFareFinder.com estimates a cab from Pearl Street in Boulder to DIA -- about 43 miles -- would cost $118, one way. George said people are averaging about $15 to $20 per person, one way on Rideorama.com.
The RTD bus route to DIA from Boulder is a cheap option, but George said it can be a hassle for those with heavy or bulky luggage -- or for people with late-night or early-morning flights when the bus is not running.
"We're just filling the niche for those who want something a little cheaper than the shuttles, but without the hassle of the bus," George said.
Rideorama also provides locals with an opportunity to make a little extra money, driving others to the airport or back home.
"It's environmentally friendly to carpool and it saves money, so it's good for everyone," George said. "We're just trying to help the community help itself."
Since final exams begin Saturday, George said the group is launching the full site this week in hopes of helping students make arrangements to get home for the summer.
Kiziah said he's not using the service to profit since the site is still fairly new and there aren't enough passengers to make it profitable for him yet. But he said that won't stop him from making the drive occasionally.
"I love talking to people and getting to know them. That's worth it for me," Kiziah said. "Maybe eventually it will be like a part-time job too but for now it's fun and interesting."