Startups Serve Travelers with Phone Apps and Networking

Carpooling and Vanpooling Meets Facebook Meets Smart Phones Meets Paypal Meets eBay

Startups are emerging and gaining traction to serve carpoolers, vanpoolers, fleets and transit networks by integrating many of the same innovative smart phone tools and apps, GPS and LBS services, social networking strategies and even payment systems.  With gas price fluctuations, congested roads, HOV time-saving opportunities, parking challenges, and climate concerns, significant growth opportunities may be on the horizon for carpool and vanpool providers.

These startups integrate the convergence of tech and social networks with profiles of some below. Comment or share your thoughts on any we have missed.

Avego has two main products. They have a form of carpooling they call “Shared Transport”, featuring an iPhone product, and they also have a traditional online ride-matching system. Another system, “FutureFleet” applies Shared Transport to buses and fleets. Avego systems combine GPS, GSM phone and GIS features to connect and inform riders and drivers. Their iPhone carpooling system, Avego Shared Transport, they call “real-time ridesharing for the iPhone generation.” An iPhone app has gone through several versions and has been downloaded and used in over 80 countries throughout the world.

Headquartered in Ireland, with offices in several US cities as well as a growing office in China, the company is led by Sean O’Sullivan, a seed investor in 20 high tech companies, six of which have gone public companies or acquired by larger companies. O’Sullivan was a founder and President for the first six years of the US-based MapInfo, the pioneering company in “desktop mapping” (the first PC applications that allowed streets to be looked up by address).
Avego recently announced a partnership with VPSI, the world’s largest vanpool provider, to support vanpool operations, including automated mileage reporting, real time passenger information (RTPI), and SMS capabilities to better inform or push information to riders. VPSI will be rolling out Avego mini-MDTs into their fleet of 5,500 vans transporting 60,000 riders daily.

Real time travel information for bus and transit networks is a key part of their Futurefleet system. They have WinCE and Linux based MDTs and mini-MDTs for telematics passenger transport applications. They also have free online tools for bus providers to create GTFS models of their transport networks, and free tools for journey planning for bus operators. This is especially important to transport operators and metropolitan areas who desire multi-modal transport options.
+ Avego Features:
• Well funded; experienced management
• Offices and development opportunities in Europe, US and China
• Diverse opportunities, including fleet and bus network for real time information


AlterNetRides is a California based company that services universities, corporations, hospitals,  and ski resorts. It includes promotion of alternative transportation, including carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking and using public transportation.

Additionally, it offers Commuter Challenges to promote all forms of alternative transportation; assisted rides for senior citizens, the disabled, etc.; and AlterNetMessages to phones for emergency notifications, school closings, etc.

AlterNetRides Features:

  • Data Scrubbing – Rides older than 6 months with no activity withdrawn
  • Weekly Carpool Report
  • Commute Savings Calculator
  • Broadcast Email Messages
  • Mark-up Map – Create a map showing the locations of buildings, parking lots, etc.
  • Post Trips to Anywhere

Carticipate was founded in May 2008. Carticipate is a social network for ride sharing and carpooling available on location aware mobile devices enabling users to “save gas, money, and the environment” (TM). Real-time ridesharing enables the formation of carpools on very short notice. The Company refers to ride sharing to as ‘carticipation.’ The goal of Carticipate is to establish what is called social transportation which can compliment public transportation and private transportation.

Carticipate is available on the iPhone in 88 countries as a free download and has been translated into 5 languages (Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch). The Current number of downloads of the iPhone app is close to 25k Carticipate is also on Facebook and leverages the social network effect of the platform.
+ Carticipate Features:
• iPhone app at iTunes store for free
• Facebook integration

The basic GoLoco message is to share car travel, split costs, and reduce emissions. Launched on Earth Day in 2007, GoLoco has its headquarters in the Boston area and targets affiliated groups and trusted networks to create shared rides. CEO Robin Chase was founder and former CEO of Zipcar. For many years she has consulted to companies, institutions, and government agencies at all levels on issues of personal mobility, innovation, and wireless technology as applied to transportation.

GoLoco arranges rides and free but it allows members to share the costs of the trip. GoLoco gets a 10 percent transaction fee.

Markets include Employers, Universities, Schools, Clubs, Religious Groups, Event Venues, and Conferences.

+ GoLoco Features:
• Sharing cost for drivers and riders with GoLoco taking transaction fee
• Open or closed groups and settings

Founded by two young Harvard grads in 2006, Goose Networks targets the corporate employee transportation market. It has also gained recognition in the clean tech community, receiving the runner-up award in the transportation category of the 2008 California Clean Tech Open. Pitched as “Enterprise-grade commuter management technology,” Goose’s Commuter Management Platform (CMP) is made available to customers as software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Key corporate clients include Genentech, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Fox, Patagonia, and REI. One client, Genentech, recently released an iPhone App to help employees manage and submit their commute calendars on the fly, and create favorites for unique trip combinations, all directly from the iPhone. This iPhone app was built by Genentech developers using Goose hosts API’s which allow clients to consume and interact with data from the Goose Commuter Management Platform.

+ Goose’s Features:

  • Technology focus with SaaS model
  • Web-based widgets
  • Support for 3rd party applications via Goose’s host of APIs
  • SMS text message integration for schedule info & rider alerts
  • Commuter tools including a multi-modal ride finder, shuttle ride finder, reservation management, ridership tracking, commute tracking, commute impact dashboard & calculators.
  • Corporate client base to include Genentech, Patagonia, REI, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Fox, and Snoqualmie & Alta ski areas.

PickupPal launched in January 2008 and is a privately held corporation.

They received lots of attention in late 2008 after bus companies complained to the Ontario Highway Transportation Board. The Board ruled and fined PickUpPal saying drivers can only ride back and forth from home to work, with the same driver, and cannot cross municipal boundaries. (True story!)

PickupPal integrates with the most popular social networking tools, making it easier for people to share rides with others who have similar interests or with whom they are already connected via colleagues or friends.

+ PickUpPal Features:
• Canadian focused
• Widget and social networking integration
• Strong on large events and concerts
• Calculates event miles, CO2 impacts and integrated reporting

A startup co-founded by a Georgia Tech University professor emeritus and GT alumni, the company provides software to facilitate both commuter programs for employers and vehicle information services for transportation providers. RideCell is a spin-off of Georgia Tech and its Advanced Technology Development Center. Their software helps manage Georgia Tech’s commuter program and its Stingerette shuttle program. Students can request a ride on the shuttle via a phone call, web, SMS or a mobile application. When the pickup vehicle is nearby, students receive alerts via a phone call or SMS which improves their experience. The software includes an automated system to accept pickup requests on the phone without the need for a human operator. It can also automatically dispatch a pickup request to the nearest vehicle. This can generate significant cost savings for the organization and eliminate hold times for callers.

RideCell’s real time carpooling software matches employees with a partner from their trusted network based on their current locations and desired destination. For every commute trip, Ridecell’s software sends the user real-time traffic alerts via SMS or email. Matches are made in real-time from a mobile device or desktop computer. RideCell can automatically credit the driver and debit the rider part of the trip cost and has a patent related to this. Using the software, Transportation Co-ordinators can keep track of statistics such as carpool usage, carbon savings and fuel savings in real time.
+ Ride Cell features:
• Patent on payment system
• Project with Georgia Tech shuttle system
• SMS push integrated with automated attendant


A Silicon Valley young company, this startup has gained traction within the ideal university and closed corporate market. Labeled “Community powered, sustainable transportation,” Zimride has three main markets, including a campus edition, enterprise/corporate edition, and event edition. Universities and companies offer a closed network with common interests, commute profiles and trusted network. They have gained traction with a heavy focus on California universities and growing across the country.

Founded and run by two 25-year old entrepreneurs, the company works off of a software licensing model receiving revenue from clients. Zimride has benefited from a recent Facebook (fbFund) grant, recognizing Zimride’s integration with their platform.

+ ZimRide Features:
• Partnership with Zipcar, the carsharing company with a similar university campus focus
• Strong focus in California with growing university network across the country, adding Wal-Mart and CIGNA as corporate network
• Integrates with Facebook for both Fan and Application tools
• Silicon Valley based; Finalists for Business Week Best Young Entrepreneurs under 25

Comments welcome.  This is not all – tell us what services or companies are missing, who is doing well or what are challenges.

About Kevin Shannon:

Manages Twitter: @ConnectedCar


Be Sociable, Share!

Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Powered by WordPress