You’ve got somewhere to be, but aren’t sure what mode of transportation is best. Uber or Lyft might get you there fastest, but surge pricing can be a pain. Are the busses running on time? Should you just drive yourself?
A new Seattle startup hopes to answer these questions for you.
Closer Mobile, which is developing an app called Migo, just raised $1.5 million of a larger round from top investment firms. Investors include Second Avenue Partners, a Seattle-based firm co-founded by Nick Hanauer, who is listed as a Closer Mobile director; VIA-ID, a European mobility-focused fund; and Wavemaker, a Los Angeles-based early-stage VC firm.
The company is still in stealth mode, but told GeekWire on Friday that it is developing a consumer product that does “real-time search for on-demand transportation.” Its website reads: “A whole new way of choosing how to get from A to B.”
GeekWire first spotted the company this past November, when it raised its seed round.
Jeff Warren leads the startup as its co-founder and CEO. He was most recently an executive at Expedia, where Warren lead teams working on mobile products, regional marketing, and more. He also spent five years at Motorola, where he was senior director of strategy and business development before departing to launch Mooi, a startup that tried to create an easy way for individuals to share content, news and calendars in a private social network, but shut down one year later.
Idealab Founder and CEO Bill Gross is listed as a director. In addition to founding the Pasadena, Calif.-based incubator, Gross is a serial entrepreneur who has been involved in or founded a variety of startups over his career.
Warren was previously an “entrepreneur in residence” at Idealab last year.
Migos will need to differentiate itself from other apps that have already tried to capitalize on an opportunity largely created by new tech-powered transportation companies like Uber, Lyft, Car2go, and others.
Back in 2013, a group of Seattle entrepreneurs launched Red Ride at a Startup Weekend event with a similar pitch: An app that aggregated API data from ride-hailing options and ranked them by estimated time of arrival and price. Once selecting your option, Red Ride would automatically open the selected app, essentially acting as a lead-generation platform for the ride-hailing services.
The team, which won first place at the event, explored growth options post-Startup Weekend and even pitched the idea at competition hosted by travel giant Concur. But the app never really took off.
“Ride-sharing providers weren’t willing to play yet, and we felt like we were too early,” Chet Kittleson, who was part of the RedRide team, told GeekWire on Friday.
There was a similar company that launched around the same time called Corral Rides, which eventually was blocked from using Uber and Lyft’s APIs. Ironically, after the startup pivoted into a carpooling service and rebranded to Hitch, Lyft decided to acquire the company.
Another company, Urbanhail, was also blocked from Uber’s API last year; that sparked debate over potential violations of antitrust laws and questions about how ride-hailing giants like Uber and Lyft should handle third-party access to their data.
There are several others in this space: Ride Guru and Ride Fair, to name a few. Another one, RideScout, launched in 2013, called itself the “Kayak of transportation,” and was acquired by Daimler AG last year.
There are certainly a lot of people thinking about how technology can help you pick the best transportation options, or help your transportation experience in general. Former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is heading up a non-profit called Challenge Seattle, told GeekWire last year that she wanted her group to create an app “that tells you every mode of transportation you can take at any given time from any given location; or an app that lets you pay for any mode of transportation.”
“By that I mean today, the way I pay my toll on 520 is worthless to get me on the ferry, which is worthless to get me on the bus, which is worthless to catch an Uber,” she said this past March. “What if there could be a single app to do that?”