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Austin Electric Cab Co wins long, inspiring battle against City

After a five year battle with the City, the Electric Cab Co is now in operation, inspiring all business leaders to persist and to push the envelope.

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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.

electric cab co

In action at AGBeat’s March BASHH 03/07

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.

Expanding nationally

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.”

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Elliot Slater

    March 25, 2013 at 10:18 am

    There’s an interesting story about the Electric Cab Co but this isn’t it. The city’s reason was really “no one else is doing it”? Where’s the quote from the city? How did they get their tickets dismissed? How did they overcome the cabbie lobby? Where’s a quote from a rider? What were the city’s concerns that the new vehicles addressed? And so on.

  2. MFM

    March 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    i wonder how much it cost to WRITE “ALL 227 TICKETS” that were just dismissed, yet a fucking pedi-cabber can sit in the fucking way on his/her uglymachine in the middle of a sidewalk. I’m so ashamed to have voted for a majority of the people on city council over these last 5 years. THIS is what they do with our hard earned money? Tie things up in paperwork and regulations that DO NOT EXIST to slow implementation of things that are good for the environment, safer, and wait for it… CHEAPER.

  3. Parker Ragain

    March 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Recall the city council.

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Business Entrepreneur

Cowrkr gives you accountability while you work solo

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Being accountable for your own accountability is a tall order. Join Cowrkr and let someone else do it for you.

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My boyfriend and I have always had a great appreciation for film and television, as well as the writing that goes into it. We always talk about different project ideas, but never get too far in execution with the busyness of real life.

Last night, I finally thought of a way that we can help each other bring our projects to completion, and that is simply by holding each other accountable. I suggest that each week we could have a new task that is due by 10 p.m. Sunday night.

We both have ideas for scripts, so the plan is to start off with having a plot synopsis and character list due the first week, having an outline due the second week, and so on. This will not only help keep us on track but will also help in terms of formatting ideas.

While I’m grateful that this little plan has come together, I know that most people aren’t working on similar projects to people they are close with. Therefore, they may need to look elsewhere for accountability.

Now freelancers and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to be matched with a fellow freelancer or entrepreneur to help hold each other accountable for their respective projects. Meet Cowrkr.

“This is an initiative to help makers keep themselves socially accountable by getting them to build publicly,” says cowrkr developers.

Users sign up and give some info regarding what project they’re working on and what they’re shipping. It works by connecting two makers at a time and cowrkr works to help each maker keep the other accountable until each project is completed.

Once a project has been completed, the makers then end their accountability relationship. When their next project comes along, they will then be assigned a different maker.

Cowrkr’s website does not give a ton of insight as to how the algorithms and matching systems work, but it is an intriguing idea for freelancers and entrepreneurs looking to take their individual projects to the next level.

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Business Entrepreneur

The top 10 startup cities in America

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) If you’re thinking about launching a startup anytime soon you may want to check out this list on the top 10 cities for startups.

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The digital revolution is in full swing, and some cities are setting themselves up to capitalize upon these innovations by supporting startups.

In order to “better understand the U.S. cities driving the digital revolution,” several groups have come together to rank which cities are making the most of the tech startup boom.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1776, the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center, and FreeEnterprise.com have teamed up to publish a report called Innovation That Matters (ITM).

The report analyzes and ranks U.S. cities on such factors as startup capital, the connectivity of startups, startup culture, the availability of worker talent and specialization, and more. Data was taken from surveys of entrepreneurs and businesspeople, startups, and leaders in public and private sectors.

J.D. Harrison, senior director of strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the “digital revolution has the potential to make winners of some cities and leave others behind.”

The study aims to find out which cities “embrace this shift to a digital economy and actively support technology startups,” arguing that these cities “will be the best positioned to unleash the power of high-impact innovation and cultivate vibrant, thriving communities.”

The top ten ranking cities are as follows:

10) Portland, Oregon because every city needs a nickname, has been dubbed the Silicon Forest, referencing its leadership in green tech.

9) New York City, New York. The largest tech hub on the east coast.

8) Seattle, Washington. Home to Amazon.com and several other tech firms, with Microsoft’s headquarters in nearby Redmond.

7) Dallas, Texas. Dtown moved up significantly by increasing startup connectivity and tapping into a large, diverse workforce.

6) Atlanta, Georgia. The “most improved” city on the ITM list, moving up 15 places to number six due to a surge in financial, educational, and health tech industries.

5) Austin,Texas. Home of The American Genius, Austin has become a “haven for tech-savvy millennials seeking good-paying job opportunities.” Besides hosting many tech startups, Austin still has a relatively affordable cost of living.

4) San Diego, California. San Diego is full of cybersecurity, Big Data, robotics, and software startups.

3)Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Also known as Philicon Alley, moved up from number eight by deregulating and becoming more business-friendly.

2) San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay also ranked number two last year. The seaside neighbor to the Silicon Valley has been doing a great job attracting seed funding these days.

1) Boston, Massachusetts. This is the second year in a row that Boston has topped this list, due to its large number of startups and robust entrepreneur population.

How does your city rank?

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Business Entrepreneur

Customer surveys tell more than just satisfaction

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) While they can be annoying for the consumer and cost time for the company, customer feedback surveys are crucial to your business.

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While Richard Dawson, Louie Anderson, and Steve Harvey may not be able to personally help you with customer service, what they have in common can. Surveys, and personalized follow-up attention in general, help clients and consumers know that they mean something to your business.

For the sake of this article (and the fast-paced, technological world we live in) I am going to be speaking about surveys. However, I want to share this anecdote first.

I used to work front desk at a salon and part of my job was to follow up with new guests about a week after their appointment.

Now, most of the time, my calls went to voicemail, which were never returned; but every once in awhile a human answered.

After going through the spiel of why I was calling, I could almost always sense a sound of surprise from the other line before the person answered my question. One conversation in particular left me realizing how important this seemingly useless task was.

I called an older woman and asked her about a recent appointment she had at the salon. She thanked me for calling and then went into detail about how great the appointment was and how much getting her hair done meant to her.

Before we hung up she said, “thank you again for calling. A salon has never done this before.” It then hit me like a ton of bricks just how significant something as small as a callback is.

If you have the time, definitely make those callbacks to clients as it could be very meaningful. However, it’s understandable that most of us may not have the time in our schedule for personalized phone calls.

So if that’s the case, don’t forget about surveys. I know most of them will either go to spam or go unanswered, but the mere fact that you’re sending it out shows clients and customers that you care about their business.

And, for those surveys that do receive responses, it can be extremely beneficial for your company as you can get insight into what works and what doesn’t. There’s really no disadvantage to this tactic, so remember to make time for that follow up with existing clients rather than just focusing on getting new ones.

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