Archive for the ‘Ride-Sharing’ Category

Part 1 of this blog entry is here.

So you’ve got this busy life as well? Probably have quite a few gadgets and electronic devices around you. Sometimes you feel it takes too much time to learn to use the full potential of those devices. Sometimes they just make life more complicated than it should be, let alone updating those devices to the latest software. Of course if you have a Mac (as I do) and a Nokia phone, you know that there is no need to update the software (as it’s only possible with Windows). If you are having difficulties with these issues, think about your mother, and how she’s doing all that (she’s not).

You are in your car, driving as it is raining like never before. And you know your carpool passenger is waiting for you, in the rain… Even though the Wizard tells you that there are umbrellas for sale three hundred meters ahead, you know that by the time (according to the navigator, 3 minutes) you get to your passenger, she does not need it anymore.

As you’re approaching the carpool passenger, the phones confirm that you are meeting the right person. You can see how she looks like, and she can see (in her mobile phone) how you and your car look like. Her phone also show your “reliability status” – which is fine. You pick-up the passenger, your phone tells you how to navigate to the drop-off location, she confirms her Wizard a safe arrival and you continue to your own office.

While approaching the office, the security gates are opened automatically as it detects your safe arrival. While walking the stairs upstairs, the Wizard has a message from Jobita. You were asking for babysitters, remember? You have three offers, you pick one that your friends have used and you confirm a deal. One worry less, great!

During the day, in the meetings, the phone does not disturb you with messages you don’t want. Family messages have priority, however (thanks to Fambit service) – so you know when to answer your daughter’s call. And if you happen to forget about the next meeting marked in your calendar, the Wizard tells you when to leave to be on time, and even gives you the public transportation route plan if you wouldn’t have a car with you as you have this time.

It’s almost six o’clock. As you have agreed to meet your wife soon in a restaurant 10 blocks away, you call her to check with her everything is ok. You drive to the restaurant, the Wizard in your phone tells you the best parking options (based on real-time information from other users) and you easily find a parking place. You pay for that, naturally with the mobile phone again.

You have a nice dinner … and whenever you wonder what’s going on at home, you just check the life video feed from home. Cool. As it turns out to be a really memorable moment for both of you, you ask the waitress to take a picture with your phone. The Wizard knows what to do with the photos. It’s sent to your Life Album, as well as to your daughter’s phone. Soon the phones gives her feedback to the picture… obviously she would like to be with you. Oh no, maybe next time.

That’s it, an imaginary story what all a mobile phone could do to make your life a bit easier. As you can see, there’s no rocket science involved. All this is perfectly doable. Bits and bytes are available in some applications, maybe, but they are not really part of anybody normal life yet.

What do you think? Do you have better ideas how this should go? Let us know, feel free to comment!


Read Full Post »

So you’ve got this busy life as well? Probably have quite a few gadgets and electronic devices around you. Sometimes you feel it takes too much time to learn to use the full potential of those devices. Sometimes they just make life more complicated than it should be, let alone updating those devices to the latest software. Of course if you have a Mac (as I do) and a Nokia phone, you know that there is no need to update the software (as it’s only possible with Windows). If you are having difficulties with these issues, think about your mother, and how she’s doing all that (she’s not).

The question of the day is the following: Why is managing life so complicated even though you have all these gadgets (or maybe because of that) that should be helping you? How should they help you?

Play a game?

Let’s envision a day how things could go if you would have what I call “Life Wizard”.

Let’s start with your mobile phone. It already knows

  • who you are
  • who you know
  • where you are (and where you should and should NOT be)
  • where you are going to be
  • who you communicate with

You wake up in the morning. It’s 6:45. You walk to the kitchen and take a quick look of your phone to see if you have any messages (yes, some people really do that). Now the Life Wizard knows that you are awake. It can also detect the movements and audio around it.

You grab your iPad, along with the breakfast and read the personalized news. There are certain benefits reading news on a device like this. It’s more local, more up-to-date and more relevant just for you. If your wife reads the news on the same device, the news may look different. And oh yes, even ads are customized for you.

While reading the news, an alert window pops up and wants to confirm something.

Are you are ready to leave in half an hour to a meeting marked in your calendar?

There are no worries with the weather, the traffic on the freeway is normal (traffic jam, as normal) so you may want to activate the carpooling in order to use the carpool lanes and avoid the bridge toll. You say “yes” and keep reading. Now the Life Wizard knows where you are going, what time, how and which route.

Rest of your family is now joining you for the breakfast so you put away the gadget. Time to talk person to person 🙂

Just before you leave the house, you remember that you don’t have a babysitter for the evening. No problem. You tap the screen of your iPad (you could really do it with your mobile or computer as well) and post an ad to Jobita. Outsourcing tasks to reliable people couldn’t be easier. The Wizard knows what you need, what time, where and what are the requirements for the candidates. Off you go!

You hit the road. Your navigator knows where you are going, and how to get the ride-sharing passenger onboard. Well, that’s because the Wizard told that, there is no need to enter the same information again.

The phone rings. It’s your Wizard calling. Well, using a mobile phone while driving is forbidden but hands-free audio is still ok. It’s about  weather this time, there is heavy rain ahead. So your passenger is going to be wet.


Read Full Post »

Yesterday I tweeted about a simple question.

So far I’ve received 15+ excellent comments.

Initially and based on discussions with some fellow (active) entrepreneurs I was of an opinion that we are mainly missing the people (entrepreneurs) to make the idea into action.

This line of thought was justified as we all know there are more ideas than what we can implement. Many of the ideas should, honestly, never be implemented. And many of them are just copycats, yet another facebook-youtube-socialmedia clone which is a pity. Even after these taken away there are many more great ideas than people to implement them. In this light it seems almost funny how desperately (still) some people value just the idea (or an idea in PowerPoint slides).

On the other hand many people, again initially, were of an opinion that you can actually find money if you have a really good idea. The money just may not come from your home country, in this case Finland. There is no real Venture Capitalists left in Finland, and the angel investor community is not very large nor truly active, yet. Luckily at least Veraventure is doing good work to get this changed.

I made earlier a little poll which says many (academic) people skip entrepreneurship as they either don’t have a business idea nor a team.

This week a Finnish business magazine Kauppalehti Optio published a cover story of 80 young people born in the 80’s, the people who are our future and who are going to take over. Guess how many of those persons were entrepreneurs? One. There is hope that some of those classified as “students” still could become entrepreneurs…

The responses to my tweet mainly said, however, that we are missing money and financing. There were also good comments about timing and luck, no matter how good the idea is. For example our idea of mobile carpool service (year 2002) was given no serious attention in the Finnish VC community (luckily the angel investors in Finland, Italy and The Netherlands trusted us) but this year two young students won Venture Cup with the idea of mobile carpool. So it’s also about timing, seven years later. See also a briefing to the subject here. As a side note I would say that if Nokia really would like to “think different”, they should use this Ecolane technology to enter mobile carpool business before Google or Apple do. Disclaimer: I’m a shareholder in both of the companies mentioned.

One thing what I’ve been wondering – if having not enough entrepreneurs is NOT the problem – why as there so little active serial entrepreneurs? I mean those who have tried at least once, possibly succeeded and become a driving force of another start-up with all that experience? Many of those people seem to be now in a more convenient “advisor” role. As one of the active entrepreneurs I respect, Marko Parkkinen, said this week: “After failing in the recent start-up, I was at one point almost desperate enough to become an employee, but luckily I run out of battery in my mobile phone before I said ‘Yes'”.

As one active entrepreneur friend of mine said, “At the first stage of ‘making it big’ the lack of true entrepreneurs makes the start-up market very small. Money matters only after a start-up has started its journey – if there was all the money available, but no real motivation to make ‘my/our company big’, I doubt there would be much success.”

However, I do belive that funding is a key element in building new success stories. Early this year  we start building a new initiative code named “GrowthOS“.

“GrowthOS is an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to build online presence enabling them to receive funding from one or more private investors as well as facilitate all the activities before and after the investment has taken place. Extensive use of web-enabled communication, reputation building and other tools offer a unique platform for private investors to follow, communicate with, invest in as well as follow or participate the development of those startups they mostly believe in.”

If you are interested in the GrowthOS ecosystem (it’s going to be Europe-wide), feel free to contact me.

But coming back to the main question: “Which one of the following is the most critical and the least supplied resource: ideas, entrepreneurs or money?”

What do YOU think?

Read Full Post »

Ecolane Dynamic Carpool illustration (2003)

Ecolane Dynamic Carpool illustration (2003)

In 2004, we conducted an interesting dynamic carpool trial at Schiphol airport (The Netherlands) with a local partner. It’s since few years now, and I thought to take a look how the world has changed ever since. And trying to figure out whether the market (of dynamic carpool) will eventually be there or not.

The project was named “Easy-Rider”. There were respectable sponsors involved, such as Alcatel, KLM, Volkswagen and ABN Amro. Despite free phones for the participants, well functioning service and working technology, the project failed miserably. The key reasons for this were wrong business model (service expected passenger to pay money and driver to earn money) and bad marketing. Customers simply didn’t know about it so the critical mass was never achieved. The traffic in the pilot area was bad, but maybe not bad enough for the customers to change their behaviour.

Maybe somebody in that area (Schiphol) can comment whether the traffic is now (5 years later) better or worse that at that time?

Philippe Le Grand has written a good summary (it’s here) of various alternatives for carpool services currently available. It is interesting to notice that there is for example one year old new service that resembles Ecolane system quite a lot 🙂 They are also making the same mistake concerning the business model.

I definitely believe that there will be a need to re-engineer the private driving sometimes in the future (see a good Nokia research paper on the subject here).

But who is going to be the first one to really make it? What are the critical success factors for this kind of service? Is it use of social networking (trust), government subsidies (like is the case for public transportation), some out-of-the-box idea (like connecting every car to a “seat exchange”) or simply the fact that one day there simply are too many cars on the roads?

In some countries there are of course also cultural barriers. But that is another story then.

Comments are welcome! Best ideas win a free carpool place in my car (although I manly commute by bike nowadays!).

Ecolane Carpool Lanes - The Future?

Ecolane Carpool Lanes - The Future?

Read Full Post »

We all know that the car industry is in BIG trouble. Volvo is for sale, is looking for tens of millions of tax payers money to survice few more months. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are asking for 25 billion USD to keep their operations going. That’s just few examples recently given in the press.

A French sociologist Bruno Marzloff had already some time ago an interesting idea: why not to offer vehicles “as a service”. Taking that idea further, why not to use the current crisis in the vehicle industry to get something new done.

Introducing Vehicles as a Service (VaaS) model!

We already had Software as a a Service (SaaS), right?

This is how would it work:

  1. All or major part of the financing the car manufacturers are asking, is used to implement this concept
  2. Best in class technologies are used to enable VaaS: mobile phones, navigation systems and ride-sharing software
  3. Banks and financing is needed for this as well (it’s huge capital investment), but that’s easy as there are so many socialized banks already 
  4. All cities would participate with related services for the participating peoples (for example, free parking)

Who would we need to implement this? There is a clear need for out-of-the-box thinking so it might be a good idea to leave out those big players who typical would implement these ever-lasting and and extremely expensive public projects (in this case we want this done a bit quicker).

Secondly, we need the best-in-class companies for the technology.

  1. Mobile technology from Nokia (they have however bad track record in Open Innovation so alternatively it could also be Ericsson)
  2. Navigation technology from TomTom (Nokia navigation is IMHO really bad, got lost in the middle of Manchester with that)
  3. Ride-sharing software from Ecolane (their real-time ride-sharing really works, it’s really cool technology waiting for the billion dollar opportunity)

And then what? Build a model where financing tools are used to finance enough vehicles which would be equipped with the above mentioned tools and offered for members (car drivers) as really good alternative for owning your own car. There is a need to integrate this with public transportation as well. As each of these vehicles actually becomes part of public transportation, maybe buses could become part of that as well by becoming more demands-responsive?

How woud it work? 

  1. Members of the VaaS service would get a brand new car (choose any brand currently in trouble) for half the price
  2. Car would be equipped with a Navigation Device connected with Ride Exchange
  3. Whenever driving the car, the navigation would be used and it would tell the Ride Exchange the destination. If there would be matching passengers, the driver would need to take them on board and the navigation would automatically adjust to the new route.
  4. The destination information would be utilized for carpooling (and why not for other useful purposes as well). There many additional things to consider, such as matching preferences and collection and use of traffic information.

Maybe you could even “sell” your current car to the government and get your share of the subsidies if you’d participate in this service with the same rules.

Well,  this is really just simplified idea that is not deeply analyzed to death. It might work or maybe not. We don’t know if we don’t try it (or even think about it, right?)

It might be really interesting to dig this deeper one day.

Read Full Post »