Startup pitch: Bridj bridges the transportation gap with Big Data and luxury busesNews / DistributionBy Nick Vivion | June 27, 2014Share This article was originally published on [video_popup width="805" height="454" video_link="http://vimeo.com/90509309" video_image_link="https://www.tnooz.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/shutterstock_175055483-e1403888845673.jpg"]It's not often that travel sees a truly innovative play, a new product or service that really affects a particular embedded legacy travel system. A new travel startup called Bridj appears poised to be one of those services that changes the structure of transportation. It's a sort of mashup of public transportation, Uber and private corporate limo buses.The startup takes a data-driven approach to surface the most popular destination pairs, and then plies luxury buses on these routes so travelers can enjoy the door-to-door advantages of private transportation while also supporting a public-style shared infrastructure at a small premium over public transit.The Boston-based startup has a team of 12, including founder Matt George, COO Desmond Pieri and Chief Scientist David Block-SchachterFrom the startup's homepage: Bridj™ uses big data to predict how a city moves, then deploys dynamic transportation networks to match popular origin and destination pairings with direct service on luxury shuttles. Bridj™ uses machine learning algorithms to get smarter as more users enter the system, allowing for a living, breathing, and thinking transportation system.Share this quote The importance of Big Data in this application is huge - ultimately, a transportation system has many inputs, and should be able to adjust accordingly. The company's overarching vision is to rethink the way transportation is deployed. Bridj™ is the first in the world to actively and dynamically collect city movement data, then dynamically deploy a transit network. By doing so, we have the ability to create infrastructure effectively and quickly throughout the world. Over the course of the next five years, Bridj™ will begin to explore and utilize advanced technology like driverless shuttles to fundamentally alter the way cities move and travel.Share this quote That final sentence is where this idea truly begins to soar - imagine the future of driverless private shuttles bringing workers to and from their places of employment, reducing the number of cars on the road while increasing comfort and productivity. Companies will likely begin working with Bridj to subsidize employee travel - similar to the Google buses but without the implications, as the system is open to anyone that wants to pay the fare.Of course, privatized luxury transportation has implications for public transportation profitability - the likely result is that these people were not taking public transportation prior, but were driving. Thus the true impact of the "pop-up bus technology" is far greater as it takes more cars off the roads, with future use cases beyond commuters.Scroll for the startup's Vine and Tnooz Q&A.Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.Bridj was originally started to help college campuses provide better transportation options (through our BreakShuttle brand). The company organically grew from college to college, and now serves thousands of students each year. Through BreakShuttle, Bridj is already the country's largest provider of pop-up mass transportation networks.Please share your funding arrangements.We've announced about a million dollars of total financing that occurred last year, and we're going to soon announce our full "seed" round which will be closing this month.What is your estimation of market size?Over 10 billion transit trips that happen every year.Who do you see as the competition?We believe that we are filling an unmet need. You have public transit and than highly personalized transit options like Uber, taxis, and driving your own car. Bridj will exist and thrive in the middle ground.What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?The average price of a Bridj trip will be around $5. This price point is a bit more expensive than public transit, but less expensive than taking a taxi or driving your own car.What problem does the business solve?Bridj fills the gaps within existing transit systems. We’ll affect where people are willing to live and work by providing reasonable commute times. For the typical commuter, more than two-thirds of jobs in the nation’s largest metro areas are inaccessible within an hour and a half by way of existing transit systems. Further, we can take passengers off overcrowded trains during peak commute times and give them a completely different experience. We use big data and network of WiFi equipped luxury buses to create new and efficient transit routes.How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?We are still very much so in the early stages! We only launched (in beta) on June 2nd.Why should people or companies use the business?For a few dollars more than the cost of using traditional public transit, you can ride on a WiFi enabled luxury bus where you are guaranteed a seat. The entire experience of taking Bridj is how transit should be: fast, direct, reliable and professional. Our data driven routes can cut your commute in half, giving you more time in your life to spend however you choose.What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?Aside from getting featured in awesome publications like Tnooz, we feel that the greatest source of awareness will come from our customers. We hope that by providing such a unique and different experience than existing transit options, that the early adopters in each city will become the "evangelists" of Bridj. Of course, that does not mean that we will ignore traditional marketing channels, but the focus is on providing an amazing user experience that speaks for itself.Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?Not just a better commuter bus, but a living, breathing, learning, smart mass transit system in multiple cities throughout the globe. A system that makes cities move more effectively by crunching millions of data points to see where people live and work. Bridj will use this data to construe commuting patterns and instead of forcing people to conform to an existing mass transportation system Bridj can conform to meet an individuals needs.What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?Many places are difficult to access through public transit, and cross-city trips can take over an hour. Packed buses and train-cars in rush hour can make a ride very uncomfortable, especially with passengers moving in and out at the many stops along the way. The other alternatives consist of taxis or small luxury vehicles, both of which are incredibly costly.Bridj allows for fast travel from one location to another in luxury seating. This creates new paths of transportation where public ones did not exist, allowing for easy commutes for travelers between the specific locations. The pop-up bus technology allows for the Bridj team to track where new bus lines are needed, as opposed to the old public bus lines that have not changed for decades.What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?We’re still in the very early stages of creating our own unique culture and identity. Most of the team members only joined a few months ago and we are all still getting to know each other. Many people compare us Uber in that they also provide private vehicles to accommodate its users in traveling from place to place. However, Bridj looks for large amounts of people traveling to and from the same locations and uses buses to transport these people.Tnooz view: While this technology is specifically geared towards commuting upfront, there are plenty of future applications for this Big Data information to inform the wider travel infrastructure system. The scope and potential change that this startup could bring to transportation is honestly one of the more exciting things to come across our desk in awhile. It basically allows for the benefits of shared transportation (reduced congestion, increased productivity, reduction of auto ownership costs) to be combined with the luxury of private transportation (on demand, door-to-door, cleaner environment) - and the average fare is only $5, quite accessible given the benefits. Yes, this is something only accessible to those who pay. However, it's much more democratic as anyone would have access to the system - rather than a corporate bus system that only serves specific individuals in the community. It also means that cities have another means of encouraging shared transportation to reduce congestion. Critics might say that this puts more strain on public transportation by reducing demand, but as mentioned earlier, Bridj customers were likely using personal transportation beforehand. Even if it takes some people off of public transportation, the savings in productivity will likely make up for any lost transit revenues. Savvy local governments could even consider how they might be able to partner with Bridj to enhance the reach of their systems, and potentially derive some new revenues via a partnership. Perhaps a discounted ride on Bridj with a monthly transit pass, for example. The startup may face some of the anti-tech, anti-elitism sentiment driving much of the debate in San Francisco, so should think clearly about how to demonstrate the ongoing value to the wider community related to accessibility and transit options expansion. Overall, a fascinating new approach to delivering transportation in dense communities using technology and Big Data as core differentiators.Share this quote NB: Bus image courtesy Shutterstock.