TaxiTapp allows users to book, track and pay for taxis—all from a smartphone.
This Champaign, Illinois-based startup recently graduated from the Iowa Startup Accelerator and is geared up to launch in January. SPN caught up with CEO and co-founder David Lomiashvili over the phone.
SPN: How did you guys get started?
DL: At the end of 2012, I asked a friend to go with me to Purdue University’s Startup Weekend event in West Lafeyette, [Indiana]. We worked on the idea throughout the weekend, and we ended up winning the event.
One of the judges, a Purdue affiliate, actually asked us to apply for the Innovation Commercial Evolution Grant. We ended up getting that for $30,000, and after that we began to see more and more interest from people, so we kept working on it.
SPN: It seems like people these days would much rather take an Uber than a Taxi. Is it difficult to stay motivated?
DL: I knew about Uber when we started. They had $50 million when they were starting out, but the thing is, we don’t see the taxi industry going away. We see it evolving, and as long as people are still using cabs, we’ll be there.
SPN: How are you different from Uber and other competitors?
DL: We have to deal with cab companies, and Uber just signs up individuals. We have to accommodate every cab companies’ requirements, because we work exclusively with them, and everyone’s requirements are different. We are also currently the only player in the market that is completely free for cab companies.
Also, with ride-sharing you can’t make reservations. With TaxiTapp, you can not only make reservations, you can also compare every driver available in the area. Unlike our competitors, the user receives quotes based on the cost of the ride, how far they are, their driver rating and the fleet name of their company.
So now cab companies can maintain their brand exposure in a new way. Customers now have a chance to become loyal to certain fleets, etc. This means cab companies have a better chance of getting higher ridership through this marketplace.
SPN: Is it free for users?
DL: We add $1.00 convenience fee for each ride. We found out that if we make good on our promise to deliver a frictionless platform, they are willing to pay that dollar.
SPN: Why did you pick the Silicon Prairie?
DL: We have eight cofounders and none of us are from the area. I from the country of Georgia in Eastern Europe. I came here to do my PhD at Purdue and to study astrophysics. I finished it and switched over. We have four other founders overseas.
We found the accelerator through f6s.com; it’s a website with more than 500+ accelerators listed. You can apply to accelerators straight from the site.
SPN: Is it difficult to have 8 co-founders as a startup?
DL: It does make it difficult, especially because we are in four different locations around the world, but we do things remotely.
It’s also very affordable in a way. We have everything in-house so we have four developers, a designer, a sales professional and a marketing professional. This way we don’t have any significant expenses, and we can kind of bootstrap, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
SPN: What were the benefits of going to the Iowa Startup Accelerator?
DL: The accelerator was such a great opportunity for us because we had the opportunity to do customer development and research with the cab companies, and to further develop our business plan. It might not work for everyone, but for us it was necessary.
SPN: What’s your biggest piece of advice for startups currently in an accelerator?
Unfortunately, I don’t think we took full advantage of all the mentors that the Iowa Startup Accelerator offered. We had like a mentor board— people that shared similar interests and connections with us. But there were over 140 mentors available. The insight they provided was very valuable to us.
What I would say to startups going through an accelerator is to try to nail down your business model, and know who your customer is as soon as possible. Try to go to market as soon as possible if you’re not already there. And work with mentors— Take full advantage and stay in touch with them.
Melanie Lucks is an intern for Silicon Prairie News and AIM Careerlink.
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