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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

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 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

How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.

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You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.

It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.

Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.

Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.

Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.

Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.

Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.

If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.

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Business Entrepreneur

This Uber for chefs will bring a home-cooked meal to your home

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Who doesn’t love a home-cooked meal? Now with this amazing startup service, you’ll soon be able to get one without having to cook it yourself.

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A professional chef making a home-cooked meal with a tall cheeseburger.

Who doesn’t love a home-cooked meal that you didn’t have to cook?

No one.

And restaurants, UberEats, DoorDash, and their ilk have been banking on this desire for some time… Although whether restaurants can stay in the game remains to be seen.

McDonald's sign with a sign that says "We are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore."

Disrespect your essentials at your peril, but I digress.

Cofounders Heinin Zhang and Siddhi Mittal of London-based toddler-aged company, Yhangry, are bringing a solution to the problem that’s neither dragging into a restaurant during a gross
and grossly mishandled plague, nor struggling with how to perfectly word directions to your home for delivery drivers.

Essentially, you pay a certain amount per head in your dining party, which includes the chef’s time and expertise, groceries, booze if you want it, AND post-cooking cleanup. Then said chef
comes to your home, does their thing, and skedaddles.

If anything, it’s like a nice little splurge— okay, NO I can’t yet afford to keep a private chef on hand to make sure I’m not having Taco Bell sauce packets for lunch, but I COULD maybe do a
little splurge once every quarter and have some ‘Let’s pretend we’re rich’ time with a gaggle of friends.

It’s like a spa day, but for your tummy.

Now of course the idea of luxury house calls isn’t new, in and of itself, but you have to admit it is extremely cool that you can trust a centralized service to have vetted individuals who need to uphold certain standards on their books. Let’s face it, if your first thought upon inviting someone you don’t know into your house isn’t ‘What effed up ess are they gonna do in here’, you’re too well-adjusted to be reading this anyway.

I kind of love it! And I’m not the only one.

Yhangry’s raised $1.5 million USD (1,079,272.50 pounds sterling in redcoat money) through several angel investors after managing swift, and successful pivots during England’s lockdowns
last year! What started as a custom dinner party organization had to shift to virtual cooking classes! Now, as things open back up with the advent of the vaccines in Great Britain, Zhang and Mittal’s business savvy and quick thinking are being very aptly rewarded. They’ve got a ready team of 130 chefs in their rosters, Covid guidelines for all to follow, and a lot of big names
in their corner.

Nimbleness always pays is the takeaway here.

I fully wish these ladies every success, mostly because I reeeeeeeeeeeally want their home-cooked meal service to hurry up and be in my house already. What’s the English equivalent of fingers crossed… Something to do with tea? My teabags are plopped for them.

It only remains to sip and see what happens!

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Business Entrepreneur

Why receiving big funding doesn’t guarantee startup success

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You finally got that big funding check that allows you to make your dreams come true, but most startups fail because they shoot for the moon.

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The first thing every startup needs to get off the ground is funding. It’s crucial to have enough capital to cover equipment, inventory, and employee salaries, along with other basic expenses unique to the industry. Most startups cover these initial costs through business loans and capital from private investors.

Some business owners perceive getting funded as the first milestone toward success. While receiving capital is critical for success, being well-funded doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of well-funded startups have failed, gone bankrupt, and all but disappeared.

How could so many well-funded startups possibly go under? The 90% failure rate for startups is due to a variety of factors including bad timing, no market, and most of all – mishandling of finances.

Here’s why receiving big capital doesn’t guarantee success.

Getting investment capital provides false hope

Getting funded can make you feel invincible and cause you to be too relaxed about spending money. It’s a powerful feeling to have plenty of money and know an investor believes in your business. Investors are smart; they wouldn’t throw money at a startup unless they had every reason to believe it will succeed, right? Not exactly.

Startups in big tech areas like Silicon Valley and San Francisco often have an easy time generating large amounts of capital from investors who can’t wait to throw money at the latest startup. Many investors ignore risk and throw their money at long-shot bets hoping to invest in the next Facebook or Instagram. The size of the pot is too mesmerizing not to take the risk.

These long-shot bets carry similar odds to winning a “Pick 6” bet in horse racing. The Pick 6 is one of the hardest bets to win because you have to pick the winning horses for six consecutive races. What if the top horse becomes injured before the sixth race? Investors who toss money at random startups have to pick a startup that will continue to meet all the right circumstances to become profitable long-term. Some of those circumstances are unpredictable.

No business owner wants to view their startup as a long-shot bet. However, the reality is that many startups are. You can’t gauge your potential for success based on how much funding you receive.

Having plenty of cash encourages premature scaling

When you’ve got the cash to scale your startup it seems like a waste not to dive in. Just one look around the internet reveals plenty of videos and articles encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business. Advice online gives the impression that if you’re not scaling your business, you’re falling behind. However, scaling too soon can tank your startup.

Research conducted by Startup Genome found premature scaling to be the number one cause of startup failure. Nathan Furr from Forbes.com explains this finding and what it means for businesses. Premature scaling is defined as “spending money beyond the essentials on growing the business (e.g., hiring sales personnel, expensive marketing, perfecting the product, leasing offices, etc.) before nailing the product/market fit.” Furr says any business is susceptible to premature scaling – not just startups.

The problem is that premature scaling depletes your cash reserves more quickly. This leaves you with less cash to fix mistakes and readjust as you go along. Failure is what happens when you don’t have the necessary cash to fix mistakes and move toward success.

How to make the most of your funding and increase your odds of success

To increase the odds of developing a long-term successful startup, here’s what you can do:

Save as much money as possible. For instance, you don’t need a giant office with expensive furniture right away. Work from home and hire a remote team until an office is absolutely necessary.

Make sure the cost of acquiring each customer makes sense. Know how much money you’re spending to acquire each customer. Track all marketing efforts and eliminate the avenues that don’t generate paying, loyal customers. If the cost to acquire a customer is more than what they spend with your company, revisit your marketing strategy.

Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement with your innovation. Skip Prichard advises startups to strive for a 10x increase in the value of whatever innovation is being provided to the world. For example, if your company is offering a lower price for a greater value, aim to increase the value 10x. Attract the early adopters who want big improvements and they will validate you.

Money is a tool – use it wisely

Celebrate when you get your funding, but keep that money in the bank for necessary expenses. Money is a tool that doesn’t guarantee success, but if you budget wisely, you’ll have a better chance at beating the startup odds.

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