Yesterday was a busy day for the Bloomington tech scene! Code Together had a table at the Bloomington Technology Partnership career and internship fair all afternoon, where we were able to speak with dozens of potential summer interns. Then it was on to another great Verge Bloomington gathering!
After the career fair I headed back to my office at The Box and around 5:30 joined the gathering Verge Bloomington crowd. After a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Katie Birge, one of the organizers, we moved on to this month’s very interesting presenters. First up was George Klein from Peoplocity, one of the RunUp Labs startups currently working out of the SproutBox space. Peoplocity is a solution to change the way companies deliver customer service. Using a mobile app, Peoplocity allows companies to quickly and efficiently connect customers with someone at the company who can really help solve the customer’s problem. One problem Peoplocity’s founders noted in their research is that first-line customer service representatives often aren’t empowered to actually do much about a problem, and as some of the lowest-paid employees in an organization may not be that motivated to find a solution, either. This can leave the customer’s problem unsolved or solved in an unsatisfactory way, possibly losing that customer. With Peoplocity, companies will be able to match customers with designated managers with the power to address issues in realtime. Peoplocity is still in the early stages of development, but it sounds like it’s moving along nicely!
In keeping with the tradition of one early-stage and one later-stage startup, James McLary of e2taxi presented next. I was really interested to hear from him, because e2taxi’s arrival in January 2012 was a huge relief to everyone who had ever used a taxi in Bloomington. e2taxi aims to be the taxi for the 21st century by incorporating environmentally friendly vehicles and up-to-date technology. Many of the vehicles are Toyota Priuses, but he also told us about the larger vehicles I’ve seen around town, which are actually custom-built to be accesible to customers with limited mobility. e2taxis are booked online, by text, or via the company’s new mobile apps, making them so much more convenient than heading to the physical cab stand and waiting your turn (often outside in the cold). e2taxis also use GPS technology, so as soon as you book the trip, you know the fare price. James said this use of GPS has the traditional meter makers quaking in their boots, because even they acknowledge how much more accurate using GPS is. Hearing about e2taxi was an interesting look into how technology is revolutionizing a slow-moving monopolistic industry.
Finally, this month’s fireside chat featured Sanjay Rama of Trips-N-Salsa. Trips-N-Salsa is building on its founders’ deep connections in the hotel industry (Sanjay’s family has owned hotels for many years) to change the way small businesses handle their corporate travel bookings, specifically with hotels. Trips-N-Salsa is a team of three, based in Greenville, South Carolina, where they recently went through an accelerator program similar to RunUp Labs. Sanjay was in town to meet with the RunUp companies and take advantage of all the travel industry companies gathered in one spot. He offered some interesting insights on working in a family business/the industry of the family business, the choice to go through an accelerator, and how and when to scale your company’s team.
Another great event on the Verge Bloomington books! I’m already looking forward to see what next month has in store.