Electric Cab Co’s story is inspiring
Have you ever had a genius idea that you wanted to get to market, but knew there would be challenges? The Electric Cab Company of Austin knew they would be challenged as they launched, but had no idea it would be five years of city council meetings and hundreds of tickets to finally get to where they needed to be. Their tale is fascinating and inspiring to any business leader considering a brave move.
Their story begins in 2008 when Electric Cab Company owner, Chris Nielsen began offering free rides to downtown bar hoppers and people who couldn’t hail a cab back to their car because it was too short of a fare. The company had sponsors that were happy to advertise on their golf carts, drivers that were happy to give free rides in exchange for tips, and riders that loved the simplicity of the zippy service and the affordability of the setup.
They were shut down, even though people loved it
The company was doing well, but the City of Austin shut them down, taking on the attitude of “since no one is doing it, it must not be possible.” The company offers the Wright Brothers as an example, as they innovated and changed the world without waiting on the establishment and regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration.
But even as they struggled to get the city to approve their application for an operating permit, they continued offering rides, albeit in a more limited volume. They racked up 227 tickets for operating, despite meeting federal safety regulations for their vehicles.
Who was fighting against them at City Council?
The taxi cab and pedicab industries consistently showed up to argue against the Electric Cab Company’s operation, but the City granted them a temporary provision to operate, they built a fleet of eight vehicles that were all tricked out, and ultimately the City revoked their license to operate, so they had to sell their fleet.
Enter Gadget Green Solutions who invested in the company, and after extensive research, the two came together to build new vehicles to address the City’s concerns, and a new fleet can handle pot holes, have improved batteries, and more features the company is still working on.
All 227 tickets were dismissed
Gadget Green Solutions CEO, John Ponce DeLeon tells AGBeat that all 227 tickets have been dismissed by the City and they are now in operation with their new fleet, debuting their six seater electric vehicle at the SXSW Conference, which was a hit with attendees, and the impromptu secret weapon for several celebrities who could get around faster and easier than limo services who had to wade through endless traffic.
After years of endless City Council meetings, the new and improved vehicles are on the road, and now operate as the next generation of advertising, with some vehicles fully wrapped by a sponsor who pays a monthly fee, and LCD screens inside of the vehicles “get in the face of your customers, in a good way,” the company likes to say.
Advertisers can skip print and opt for a dynamic ad they can change weekly and promote specials, even including a QR code to take riders to a coupon or their Facebook page.
The company will eventually expand outside of Austin, but they anticipate they will see the same resistance in other cities. Ponce DeLeon said, “we will eventually take on that challenge of breaking down the barrier of various transportation departments.”
Small businesses must go digital to survive (and thrive)
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A study at Cisco reveals how digitizing small businesses is no longer optional, but critical to success, thanks to the pandemic.
As digital transformation efforts ramp up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study released by Cisco has highlighted some key insights into how small businesses will need to adapt in order to survive in the “new normal.”
The study, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), analyzed more than 2,000 small businesses across eight different markets, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, and France. Using a four-section index to assess a small business’s digitalization efforts, the research found that 16% of companies said they were “thriving and feel their businesses are agile and resilient.” While 36% stated they were in “survival mode.” Regardless of where they were ranked in the index, the study concluded that 70% of firms were in the process of ramping up digital transformation within their company due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide that was already present in the small business market, and it is forcing companies to accelerate their digitalization,” said Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP, head digital transformation & SMB research at IDC. “Small businesses are realizing that digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival.”
The study also highlighted several challenges associated with digital transformation. The three biggest obstacles that businesses seem to face during the process were digital skills and talent, budgetary issues (lack of funds or previous commitment of funds), and cultural resistance to change. Despite these roadblocks, 45% of companies surveyed stated that they expect over 30% of their business to be digital by 2021. And 32% responded that they are planning on developing a digital strategy. This included investing in talent with the right set of digital skills moving forward.
Those decisions fall in line with Cisco and IDC’s recommendations. These include creating a three-year technology road map and building a workforce with the right skills to succeed in a digital world. Other suggestions include finding the right technology partner, and keeping up with industry trends. Leveraging financing and remanufactured equipment can aid with cash flow and budget requirements.
As small businesses continue to adapt to consumer behavior and the whirlwind of ever-changing rules that have come with the coronavirus, digital transformation will continue to play a major role in the post-COVID world. According to the report, if half of the small businesses surveyed can reach the second-highest tier of the index by 2024, those companies could end up adding an additional $2.3 trillion to the eight markets’ gross domestic product (GDP), contributing to the global economic recovery.
As we approach the six-month mark of the pandemic, just when and how the “new normal” will emerge is still uncertain. But there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses — even if it’s faint green and contains zeroes and ones.
Product Hunt is putting their money where their hunt is
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Product Hunt is putting money where their hunt is by announcing a new Maker Grants service to boost small and independent creators.
Product Hunt – a technology centric site that aggregates new products daily – recently announced a new Maker Grant program that is designed to identify and help startups get their products started with a $5,000 grant.
Since its inception in 2013 by Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt has been a success vehicle for numerous products and companies by giving them access to a large audience of potential customers and investors. Available as an app across multiple formats, it allows groups to post their ideas and get feedback from a number of sources through comments and an integrated voting system. Everything from books, podcasts, hardware, and games can be found on Product Hunt, with dozens of new entries every day.
And now, Product Hunt’s new venture is to give 3 promising products their own substantial grant each month in an effort to give back to its community by placing money into the hands of its followers.
In a statement in its press release, Product Hunt announced that, “We know that building products can be expensive work, and passion doesn’t always pay the bills. As a way of saying thank you to the community, and to encourage makers to keep building, this year we’re offering cash gifts of $5,000 to three makers each month.”
Users will be able to nominate Makers that they feel deserve the investment by filling out a form. Product Hunt will take these suggestions and make decisions from there. In terms of how this will all be done, the official word is, “We’re reviewing makers who launched in the previous month who we believe are shining examples of innovation, grit, and engagement with the PH community. We’ll also be prioritizing those who are bootstrapping their businesses or working on their side projects without the help of venture funding.”
The big takeaway here is that Product Hunt is championing its support of its Makers through direct monetary help. By giving back into their own users, it strengthens and encourages them to put their best ideas forward and believe in their own innovation. Whereas more standard and traditional methods of grants may require several layers of arbitration, paperwork, and other hurdles, Product Hunt is providing a fast track to capital by leveraging its existing group of passionate users. Even knowing where to look can be intimidating and overwhelming.
At a time when banks may not be the best option for grants and loans, seeing a company choose to instead redirect its own money into the hands of its users is uplifting (and even more so given the turbulent market in a pandemic-choked world). Product Hunt maintains that it will do this each month, and will listen to feedback as it continues to build out the program.
Product Hunt’s userbase has reacted with incredible enthusiasm and praise, with repeated posts expressing a huge level of excitement and gratitude. While there are still some questions to be answered, Product Hunt’s flexible and community-driven approach is poised to potentially change the lives of many Makers. It will be exciting to see how this all plays out, and hopefully will encourage other companies to follow suit in creating positive outcomes through financial support.
Snowpocalypse disaster 2021: How can businesses help their employees?
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How did your business manage your human resources during snowpocalypse? How can you protect your team and prepare for the next disaster?
The effects of Snowpocalypse 2021 will be felt for months. It’s not just fixing the power grid, paying off electric bills, or repairing pipes. Many employees lost wages because they couldn’t work. CNBC estimates that over 40% of Americans couldn’t last a month on their savings. Combined with the impact of COVID-19 across many industries, recovering from a 2-week loss of wages from the snowstorm disaster could devastate many Texans.
How does your business manage time off during disasters?
Larger businesses often continue to pay their employee’s salaries during disasters. Exempt employees have different rules over non-exempt employees, but we’ve seen many instances where larger organizations continued to pay employees, even though they couldn’t get into work. Employees with small to medium sized businesses often don’t have an option. These employees either take PTO or don’t get paid. While this might be legal and understandable from the business point of view, there might be other options. What can a business do when a disaster occurs when it comes to employee wages?
Know the law to pay employees right
I’m not even going to try to and sort through the multitude of laws that pertain to nonexempt or exempt employees. Every business should have a disaster policy that informs employees how their salary will be handled during the disaster, whether employees can stay home and work, choose to stay home out of safety or are forced to stay home and can’t work. Know the policies of the ADA, OSHA and FMLA to know what your rights and responsibilities are as an employer when disaster strikes. Make sure you’re paying employees according to state and federal laws.
Consider options to protect employees
We’re not suggesting that businesses put themselves in debt to pay workers during a crisis, but Texas has experienced so many disasters over the past few years, it does make sense to think about how to help employees during those times. Critical time off (CTO) is one option as a benefit to workers during crises. By lowering stress during critical times, your employees come back to work ready to deal with your business.
Building trust with your team by helping them through a crisis can help your business keep your best workers. Now’s the time to look at your disaster response and figure out how to take steps to prepare for the next time.
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