On March 8, it was my honor to be one of the judges for Tech Cocktail’s startup “pitch jam” during SXSW Interactive. I was even more honored to be judging alongside AOL co-founder Steve Case, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Austin economist Angelos Angelou, Visual.ly co-founder Adam Breckler and other tech luminaries.
At the pitch competition, representatives of 18 startups received one minute each to sell us on their business concepts. Austin-based RideScout LLC got my attention — and got my vote for winner of the competition. (A startup called Travel Macho took first place.)
RideScout bills itself as the first mobile app that combines public, private and social-ride transportation options on a single platform.
What stood out about RideScout? To start off with, the RideScout pitch by Steve Carroll, the company’s vice president of operations, was informative and intriguing. Secondly, and most notably, RideScout’s mobile app promises to revolutionize transportation and reduce our traffic headaches.
RideScout bills itself as the first mobile app that combines public, private and social-ride transportation options on a single platform. The app has generated a ton of media buzz, and deservedly so.
“While most transportation options have their own apps, RideScout collects them in one place. You plug in your departure, and RideScout will present you with various options based on your current location, allowing you to compare them by duration and price, all in real-time,” The Atlantic reported in 2013.
In Austin, the app lets you view options for transportation providers like Capital Metro, Electric Cab, car2go and Austin B-cycle.
“The default answer for transportation in Austin does not have to be a personal car,” Austin City Council member Chris Riley said last year. “Companies like RideScout make it easier for Austinites to find the transportation options that work best for them. For every Austinite who finds an alternative for their commute, RideScout has helped all of us by taking one more car off the road.”
Other cities on the RideScout platform are Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C.
To be sure, RideScout’s app won’t entirely erase traffic jams in Austin or anywhere else, but it should help ease congestion. And in Austin, we need every traffic-fighting tool at our disposable. If you haven’t heard, Austin now ranks fourth on a list of U.S. cities with the worst traffic.
Joseph Kopser, an Army veteran who is a military science professor at the University of Texas, co-founded RideScout in 2011. The company, a relatively new member of the Austin Technology Incubator, officially debuted its app at last year’s SXSW. RideScout placed second at the Hatch Pitch competition during SXSW 2012.
Kopser came up with the idea for RideScout when he was working at the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C. and mulling over his commuting alternatives.
“In creating RideScout, I was on a journey to make life easier for everyday Americans to find the transportation they needed in the hope they could leave their car behind,” Kopser told a congressional committee last year. “We waste so much energy every day sitting in traffic, burning fuel — I got tired of it.”
He added, “I set out to find a website or mobile app that would show me all my options in one place. I found great sites for buses and some for cabs and even a few carpool sites — but nothing that brought them all together.”
Slowly but surely, RideScout — which promotes itself as the Kayak.com of ground transportation — is bringing them all together. The free app is available for iPhone and Android devices.