Sulaiman Sanni is a Brooklyn-based social entrepreneur and technology executive. He is the founder of Dollaride, a technologically driven company that serves underserved communities with public transportation. Dollaride functions similarly to a ride-hailing app, allowing users to locate nearby licensed dollar vans and hail a ride.
Dollar vans can transport up to 20 people for a few dollars per person. Dollar vans, unlike Uber, do not provide door-to-door service. They load passengers while driving along predetermined routes, eerily similar to the informal transportation system used by Blacks who could not afford public transportation.
“They’ve been around for well over 30 years, and primarily work in the outer boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx,” Sanni said of dollar vans to builtinnyc. “Most of the drivers and riders are folks from the Caribbean, Chinese immigrants, folks who are from the Latino community,” Sanni added.
Sanni, who is originally from Nigeria, grew up riding in dollar vans. His uncles were dollar van drivers when they first arrived in the United States in the 1980s. His encounters with dollar vans inspired him to create Dollaride.
“I personally grew up in low-income housing in New York City,” he said. “I grew up in a transit desert, which is a part of a city where you have remarkably limited access to public transportation.”
He continued: “As a result, I ended up relying on dollar vans when traveling to school or work. I had lived the problem. So I just wanted to provide that solution to more people who are also living in transit deserts around New York City, and now, potentially, around other cities around the country.”
Sanni recently got $10 million in funding to build New York’s first all-electric dollar van network. The project will commence in January 2023.
“I am proud to be providing the most significant investment yet in clean transportation for historically underserved communities in New York State,” NY Governor Kathy Hochul said, according to a press release.
Sanni previously founded WeDidIt, an online fundraising platform, before launching Dollaride. Using WeDidIt, he assisted over 2000 nonprofit organizations in raising over $50 million. He ran WeDidIt for eight years before selling it to Allegiance Fundraising Group in June 2019.
Sanni graduated from Boston College with degrees in Psychology and Business Management.