What happened to Nightlife Transit?

Nightlife Transit (NT) is a late-night shuttle service that combines GPS, mobile applications and eco-friendly biofuels to keep drunk drivers off the road and increase alternative transportation. The Omaha-based startup hit the streets in June and was only in the market for about two months before getting tied up in litigation issues with local cab…

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.07.59 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.07.59 PM

Nightlife Transit (NT) is a late-night shuttle service that combines GPS, mobile applications and eco-friendly biofuels to keep drunk drivers off the road and increase alternative transportation.

The Omaha-based startup hit the streets in June and was only in the market for about two months before getting tied up in litigation issues with local cab companies. SPN caught up with co-founder Eric Burns over the phone to get the details surrounding the events.

SPN: How’s it going?

EB: I believe as of last week the cab companies and NT reached an agreement. So hopefully we should be able to finalize everything and put plans together to launch again soon.

SPN: So what happened to you guys?

EB: At the beginning of June we received a letter from the cab companies. Basically they were protesting our certificate of authority. The transportation industry is just one of those industries that is highly regulated with the Public Service Commission.

So, they sent a letter basically saying that [NT] lacks the financial, managerial and technical resources to provide our service and that it wouldn’t be in the public interest. They also said that the cab companies were already providing adequate and reliable transportation services and that basically [NT] wasn’t needed.

After that we sat down face-to-face and tried to work things out, but they really didn’t want anything to do with us.

A lot of legal fees later they finally decided that they did not want to take it into a hearing, and they requested a settlement offering; which was pretty much the same thing we had initially offered. Like we wouldn’t pick up from the airports, etc.

They were just trying to keep us out of their business and [they] did a fantastic job of bleeding us with legal fees and things like that. It definitely slowed us down a bit, but now we are looking at some possible launch dates.

SPN: How long were you running before this all happened?

EB: We were running for about two months. We were contracting our buses in order to legally run with someone else’s certificate of authority.

SPN: Did you anticipate all of the upheaval or was it a surprise?

EB: I knew transportation was highly regulated so I knew there was a chance. But I didn’t think it would come from the cab companies just because we had worked together on a lot of different things in the past.

For example, we were not able to get people out to west Omaha and Bellevue, etc. So a lot of the time we were dropping people off at their cab stands. So that was something that really frustrated me in the first couple months because I’d given them a handful of business.

However, they didn’t want to play nice. There were so many ways that we could have worked together, and we had talked about those ways, but John Davis at Happy Cab just did not want to have anything to do with us.

SPN: What have you learned from the experience?

EB: That I should have become a lawyer (laughs). No, it’s been a great learning experience as far as navigating the waters of the legal aspects of running a business.

Now I’m just in the mindset of going all in and trying to take the cab companies out of business.

SPN: What’s next for NT?

EB: Those couple months we were open we learned a lot about this business. Looking at everything in a positive light, it gave us a good chance to kind of reset. Although we lost a lot of our sponsors and all of our ridership, it allowed us to see some of the things we were doing right and what we were doing wrong.

We’re putting together a full plan, and we are looking to relaunch towards the beginning of the year, probably closer to March or April.

SPN: What have you been working on in the meantime?

EB: For these last three or four months I was working on a few other projects. My current project is Gazella Wifi.

So, you’ve probably been to a hotel and accessed their free wifi. In order to access it you probably would have had to put in your room number or something. We’re sort of doing the same thing but for restaurants, coffee shops and bars; and instead of entering a room number you have to like that restaurant’s Facebook page in order to access the free wifi.

Melanie Lucks is an intern for Silicon Prairie News and AIM Careerlink.

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