‘Uber for snow removal:’ New app inspired by Canada’s winter weather

Homeowners can download the app for free and set up a profile, including location, size of driveway and how many cars park there

When the first big snow dump covered Winnipeg this week, the developers of a new phone app put their technology to the test.

“You can think of it as Uber for snow removal,” said OnTheStep founder Buhle Mwanza, referring to the ride-hailing app.

Mwanza spent months developing the on-demand snow clearing app, which connects homeowners with shovellers — called steppers — to get their driveways and walkways cleared.

Looking around at snow-covered driveways on Thursday, the University of Manitoba computer science student said he was inspired by Winnipeg’s nickname of Winterpeg.

“I was just thinking why not make a problem all of us have to go through as innovative and fun as possible and really embrace that Winterpeg identity?”

Homeowners can download the app for free and set up a profile, including location, size of driveway and how many cars park there. When the snow starts to fall, as it always does in large quantities in Winnipeg, they can request shovelling services from their phone.

Once a price is set, a shovelling notification goes out to all the steppers in the area and one — or a team, depending on the size of the job — will get to work.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland highway crews prepare for a winter of heavy rain, wind

Homeowners get notifications of each aspect of the job: when the stepper arrives, when the work is done, and when the money goes through.

The app launched earlier this month, but the city had yet to see much snow. As Environment Canada put out a special weather statement for the incoming winter storm on Wednesday, Mwanza became excited to see if people would want the service and how it would all work.

He went to the first shovel request himself and the homeowner was so excited, they took photos together. But soon after, more and more requests started to come in.

OnTheStep recently partnered with Hire-A-Refugee, a local organization that connects refugees with jobs, but the demand for services was outpacing the supply of shovellers.

So Mwanza, along with the other OnTheStep team members — Tyrel Praymayer, Alex Shao and Tristen Wong — pulled out their shovels and got to work. From the first request Wednesday afternoon until around 3 a.m. Thursday, the group trudged up and down driveways with shovels.

“I feel like snow and Winnipeg is sort of like a bonding experience. We all have to deal with it,” said Praymayer, OnTheStep’s marketing manager and student at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

“Winnipeg is great inspiration for this app. It’s a beautiful way of incorporating Winnipeg into innovation.”

Despite a night and morning of shovelling, team members said they are excited by the demand of the first big snowfall.

“Snow definitely has a different identity in our mindsets now,” Mwanza said.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Private viewing for Elijah-lain Beauregard to be held in Penticton

Afterwards, there will be a celebration of life next to the Okanagan Lake,

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: mix of sun and clouds

Environment Canada is predicting a 30 per cent chance of showers and a risk of thunderstorms this afternoon across the Okanagan

More showings of controversial movie Unplanned scheduled in West Kelowna

One of the additional shows sold out in three minutes at the Landmark Xtreme

Truck fire knocked down on Highway 97

The blaze has been knocked down by fire crews

Single vehicle roll over in West Kelowna sends one to hospital

One person sent to hospital with non life-threatening injuries

VIDEO: Reports say Lashana Lynch is the new 007

Daniel Craig will reprise his role as Bond one last time

Nine kittens and cats rescued after being locked in bins in northern B.C.: SPCA

SPCA says cats were starving, and matted with feces and urine

Guess Who has started a band in the Shuswap? Legendary guitarist Donnie McDougall

Band to play pair of shows in Sicamous area before setting out on tour

10th year for South Okanagan Cherry Pit Contest

The event is a fun-filled way to celebrate the local harvest

High-speed rail link would run from Vancouver to Seattle in under 1 hour: study

Annual ridership is projected to exceed three million

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

U.S. tug firm to be sentenced for 2016 spill in B.C. First Nation’s territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

Asylum figures show overall slower rate of irregular crossings into Canada

Between January and June 2019, a total of 6,707 asylum seekers crossed irregularly into Canada

Most Read