Launched: September 2008
Former job: IT employee for Morgan Stanley
I spent 14 years doing IT work with Morgan Stanley. My commute from New Jersey to New York City was frustrating, as the delays on public transit were unexpected and frequent. In 2006, I approached a few acquaintances that I knew on my train line and asked if they'd be willing to share delay information. They agreed, and I created a group e-mail address so that if any one of us found out about a disabled train, he'd only have to type the information once and we'd all get it.
To their credit, New Jersey transit has a top-down alerting system that commuters can sign up for, but our system was often quicker. Word spread about our little communication system and within a year, we had a mailing list of 70 people. I decided to invest some money to patent and trademark the back-end tech work and the process, which I called CleverCommute.
It was a fun hobby - and commuters love it. So I expanded it to the other lines on the New Jersey Railroad, the Jersey bus system, the Long Island Railroad and the Metro North Railroad, which services the Connecticut and northern New York lines. In the fall, CBS asked if they could use my data to help with their commuter traffic reports, so I invested more money to set up feeds for them and they paid me for the service.
Then, in November, I got laid off. I was lucky, though. I left with a severance and a business that was just slightly profitable. I had more than 5,000 people using the service, so I decided to flesh it out. In December, I got my first advertisers, who loves having such a target market. They advertise by train line, so whenever there's a delay, the commuter will get both the message and an ad.
If this business is going to continue grow, I will need to work on penetrating the lines that don't yet have a solid network. I know there's room to expand in New York, but I've already started looking at the commuter lines in Boston and Chicago.
Last week I hired my first salesperson and I intend on continuing to hire as I add transit lines. I'm excited about where I am right now and am feeling confident about how the business is taking off.
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