Ride-sharing startup SideCar is getting serious about expanding into new cities throughout the U.S. The company just acquired Austin, Texas-based Heyride to help it improve its product and introduce service in that market, and is announcing plans to roll out ride-sharing in Los Angeles and Philadelphia this weekend as well.
SideCar offers a set of mobile app that allows users to electronically hail rides, basically connecting drivers and passengers with one another. It also manages identity and ratings of drivers and passengers, ensuring users aren’t getting into cars with drivers who are dangerous, unsafe, or otherwise creepy. And it facilitates payments (ahem, donations) for those rides, so that passengers can seamlessly give cash for the transportation provided.
After launching in San Francisco last summer, the startup has seen a fair amount of success. Now it’s looking to take its service into new markets. SideCar rolled out in Seattle in the fall, but plans to very aggressively enter a number of new markets over the next few months.
That expansion starts this weekend, as SideCar will being offering service in Philadelphia, Austin, and Los Angeles. At first, SideCar will only provide rides on the weekends, as it recruits drivers to support demand in those new markets. Not long after, the company expects to launch in other cities around the country, as it is actively recruiting drivers in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
In addition to new launch markets, the company is announcing the acquisition of Austin-based startup Heyride. Like SideCar, Heyride has built mobile apps to enable ride-sharing services. While providing support in Austin is a nice bonus, SideCar founder Sunil Paul said the acquisition will help improve its own apps and service.
“We are bringing on this talent to improve our design and user experience in the app and in the vehicle,” Paul told me by phone. “If you play with the [Heyride] app, it’s really beautifully done.” SideCar is adding four Heyride employees to its roster, including two who will become part of the San Francisco team, and two who will stay on in Austin. The company will also have a city manager to handle local operations in that market.
(As a side note, SideCar plans to be fully operational in time for SXSW, which will be a blessing for anyone who has ever had to get from one place to another in that city during the week-long convention.)
SideCar’s expansion comes not long after raising $10 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Google Ventures. But it’s also being announced as competition heats up in the urban transportation market generally, and among ride-sharing services in particular. After raising $15 million of its own, San Francisco-based competitor Lyft entered a second market by launching its ride-sharing service in parts of Los Angeles late last month.
Meanwhile, emboldened by a deal with the California Public Utilities Commission, on-demand car startup Uber said it, too, would get into the ride-sharing business. And that’s not mentioning the fast emergence of taxi e-hail apps like Flywheel and Taxi Magic, all of which will provide a number of alternatives for residents in urban areas.
But it’s not just the competition that SideCar has to worry about: Like Uber before it, the company is also likely to face regulatory scrutiny in many of the new markets it enters. It’s notable that local authorities in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. all took issue with Uber when it launched in those cities.
While SideCar has briefed local officials in many of the cities it intends to enter, Paul said he is lawyered up and ready to fight any regulatory battles that the company will face. “This is a new idea and just like other technological battles in the past… new innovations almost always have to battle against the status quo,” he said.
That said, SideCar continues to stress that it is a legal service, according to ride-share provisions in most locations. For one thing, drivers aren’t supposed to make a profit over and above the cost of operating and maintaining their vehicles. Also, unlike some other services, both driver and passenger have agreed on a destination that they’ll travel to before the passenger is picked up. “We’ve always maintained that what Sidecar does is legal and we’ve set up a system that enables drivers to comply with ride-share rules in all 50 states,” Paul told me.
We’ll see if regulators and local governments agree. In the meantime, isn’t it fun to watch all these startups battle it out, and at the same time, fundamentally change the way we all get around?
One of the highlights of annual music industry tradeshow Midem is its Visionary Monday conference strand, where thought leaders from the music business and beyond share their thoughts about the future.
With music and technology so tightly intertwined these days, there’s sure to be a lot to interest you, dear The Next Web reader. Samsung’s TJ Kang (who we spoke to yesterday) and Ford CTO, Paul Macarenas will discuss the connected future of the content industry, Rackspace’s Robert Scoble will look at the impact of wearable computing, sensors, big data, social, and location on the music business, and themes like how artists can leverage new technology will be explored. There’s also the chance to find out who won the Midemlab startup competition.
So, watch, learn and enjoy. The full programme is listed below the video embed.
Schedule (all times CET):
1100: Opening remarks
1105: Artists Leveraging Tech & Brands
1145: Music in the Age of Context (Robert Scoble)
1155: Discover the Winners of Midemlab 2013
1220: A Roadmap to Navigate Music Marketing
1230 – 1430: Lunch break
1430: Lang Lang: The classical pianist explains how talent, technology and brand partnerships exposed his music to a broader audience
1500: Creativity Means Business
1510: Discover the Winners of Midem Marketing Competition 2013
1530: Towards a Connected Life (Samsung and Ford)
1630: John Hayes, American Express
1700: Coding & Music
1710: Debate – How the Music Industry Manages Innovation
1810: Closing performance from Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky
Continue reading here: Watch live on TNW: The future of the music industry explored at Midem’s Visionary Monday
Two key elements of Microsoft’s marketing and sales strategy for its two mobile platforms are now known: the Surface will be granted improved sales channel distribution and the Windows Phone 8 smartphone line will enjoy a new interactive marketing campaign in the United Kingdom.
Both moves are set to help drive unit volume during the key holiday sales cycle that could set the coming year’s pace for both tablet and phone lines. The Surface is a key element of the Windows 8 platform, just as Windows Phone 8′s end-of-year sales could sour, or sweeten, its relationships with key carrier providers.
The inimitable Paul Thurrott has revealed Microsoft’s refreshed Surface strategy, claiming that “with both Windows 8 and Surface off to a slow start, the firm moved quickly to adapt and will allow numerous retailing partners outside the US to begin selling Surface with Windows RT starting this week.”
Even more, according to Paul, here in the United States both Best Buy and Staples will sell Surface units. Microsoft has been criticized in recent days for its rather narrow Surface distribution strategy, selling the device through its website and own physical store locations.
The reasons for that are many, but among them are likely a desire for increased foot traffic to Microsoft store locations, and the will to control the buying experience so that consumers are given a firm boost into the realm of Windows 8.
Windows 8 and the Surface are said to be behind Microsoft’s projections. That in mind, the accelerated roll out to partner stores is hardly surprising.
According to Campaign, Microsoft has a fresh new advertising strategy in place for its Windows Phone 8 line of devices in the United Kingdom.
Windows Phone 8 is a success story for Microsoft, as its release cycle has seen improved handset sales, larger developer interest, and increased app downloads and developer revenue.
However, progress is insufficient when one lags so far behind the market leaders. To that end, Microsoft’s plans to boost mind share among citizens of the United Kingdom could help grow its install base.
The marketing effort will see consumers personalize their own Windows Phone 8 Start Screen, which may then be used as future ad copy. The goal appears to acquaint the average person with Live Tiles and how you can ‘make a Windows Phone your own.’
According to Campaign, the effort is “the ’biggest ever’ interactive digital outdoor campaign in terms of scale and ambition.” If you live in the United Kingdom, look for a booth near you. If you do take part, TNW would love for you to snap a picture or two.
Microsoft is reacting to the Surface’s drag by boosting its channels, and is capitalizing on Windows Phone’s momentum by taking it to the masses. Both moves should assist the product lines to have passable ends of the year. We’ll know more when we have the numbers.
Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble
Online travel site Priceline.com just announced that it has agreed to acquired the travel search engine Kayak for $1.8 billion. Priceline will pay $40 per share for Kayak. About $500 million of the purchase price will be in cash and the other $1.3 billion in equity and stock options.
Kayak was founded in 2004 by a team of online travel industry veterans, including Steve Hafner (CEO) a co-founder of Orbitz, Paul English (CTO) a former VP of technology at Intuit, Terrell Jones (Chairman), founder of Travelocity, and Greg Slyngstad (Director), founder of Expedia. The company received a total of about $229 million in venture funding for major Silicon Valley firms, including General Catalyst Partners, Sequoia, Accel Partners, and others. The company had its IPO this August and currently processes about 100 million user queries per month.
On a conference call about the acquisition this afternoon, Priceline noted that Kayak will continue to operate independently. Kayak, Priceline argued, will profit from this partnership in its plans to expand internationally. Priceline also noted that this transaction will help Kayak to get deeper into the hotel business.
“Paul English and I started Kayak eight years ago to create the best place to plan and book travel,” said Steve Hafner, Kayak Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder in a canned statement today. “We’re excited to join the world’s premier online travel company. The Priceline Group’s global reach and expertise will accelerate our growth and help us further develop as a company.”
For Priceline, this is a rare acquisition. The company only acquired four companies so far: Agoda.com, Booking.com, TravelJigsaw and Active Hotels.
So far, the stock market has reacted rather negatively to the news. Priceline’s stock is down about 2% in after-hours trading.
At the 2012 edition of Y Combinator’s Startup School, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Paul Graham and the audience that MySpace was a great service prior to his social network coming into the market. In fact, Zuckerberg said that it was doing a lot of things that Facebook hasn’t been doing. But what seems to have led to MySpace losing its way was that it felt that the world’s largest social network was something that should be feared and then “pivoted” to copy what Zuckerberg was doing.
Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham, asked the Facebook CEO whether MySpace could have succeeded. Graham seemed to insinuate that Facebook had won it all and that there was no other social network. To that, Zuckerberg disagreed.
He said that it wasn’t about simply building a social network — it was about doing something. For MySpace, it was great earlier to help you meet new people. For Facebook, the company was more focused about staying in touch with all your friends, family, and people you already knew. Eventually, MySpace shifted its comprehension of Facebook and felt it needed to compete with the service to succeed. Zuckerberg believed that it was then that MySpace went ahead and copied everything that they’ve been doing and that is serving their business badly.
Startup School was created by Y Combinator to bring in young hackers and entrepreneurs to listen to the industry’s thought leaders. It’s a free one-day conference, but you need to apply to attend.
If you’re not able to attend Startup School, you can watch the livestream here.
Image credit: YEKATERINA SHTUKINA/AFP/GettyImages