As ride-share companies Uber and Lyft battle it out with taxi companies for passengers in Pittsburgh, entrepreneur Joshua Freedman has quietly launched a third option for matching drivers and riders called CabbyGo.
"CabbyGo provides tech tools for taxi companies," Mr. Freedman said. "We use existing carriers in the marketplace that are already PUC-approved to give the rider options."
His goal is to have enough transportation companies signed up as clients to allow passengers to choose their best option.
"They can choose the driver who is closest, or the ride that would be least expensive," he explained.
The value proposition to riders is access to multiple carriers. For drivers, it's a way to get free leads, Mr. Freedman explained.
Mr. Freedman is launching CabbyGo just as the issue of alternative transportation in Pittsburgh has gotten some traction.
San Francisco-based ride-share companies Lyft and Uber moved into the area earlier this month, and almost immediately raised the ire of Star Transportation and Pittsburgh Transportation Group, the two largest taxi companies in the region.
Ride-share customers summon drivers, who use their own vehicles, via a smartphone app.
Uber has been operating its Uber Black service in Philadelphia since 2012, and has a commercial broker's license in the state. Lyft does not have a commercial license in Pennsylvania, and says it's not subject to the rules governing traditional taxi and limo companies, which require anyone who receives compensation for providing transportation to be commercially licensed.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto earlier this week asked the state Public Utility Commission to reconsider its rules governing ride-share companies.
Meanwhile, since rider and driver don't exchange money via CabbyGo's app, CabbyGo is not compensated for providing transportation, Mr. Freedman said. Its revenue source, he said, will be advertiser-based.
He aims to sell ads in the app to restaurants and other establishments, with the ads targeted by geolocation. So if a rider opens CabbyGo's app and requests a ride to the South Side, for example, an ad would pop up for a South Side company.
CabbyGo offers an Android app, and is awaiting approval for its iPhone app. The first transportation company to sign up to connect with it so far is Three Rivers Transportation, whose modest six-vehicle fleet seems to make it a good fit for the tech startup.
"It's just a very simple system. We've been impressed with it so far," said Daniel Seebeck, chief operating officer for Three Rivers Transportation. His West Mifflin company operates a limousine service with mostly pre-scheduled trips. "We see [CabbyGo] as a way to increase our business."
Mr. Freedman, 38, of the Strip District said he was inspired to start CabbyGo by several disappointing encounters with taxis in Pittsburgh.
The graduate of the University of Pittsburgh developed the app and the business concept with co-founder Sneh Gupta of Pune, India. Mr. Freedman says he's financed the startup costs with personal savings, and pre-seed family and friends' contributions. In addition to Mr. Freedman and Mr. Gupta, the company has three full-time employees.
CabbyGo is not Mr. Freedman's first venture. In 2006 he started the now-defunct website Alleghenynow.com, which organized Allegheny County's real estate assessment website by name function. He said he also has worked with Mr. Gupta on other websites and apps.
The plans for CabbyGo are to roll it wide in the upcoming months. "Because of our model of using existing carriers, I expect [the rollout] not to be a problem," he said.
He had hoped Lyft and Uber wouldn't launch in Pittsburgh until he had a chance to get CabbyGo better established.
"But anything that brings awareness to the issue of transportation in Pittsburgh is good. I know my app has value that they don't."
Kim Lyons: email@example.com, 412-263-1241 or on Twitter @SocialKimly.