A taxi-hailing service that hopes to steal some of Uber’s momentum and a market research firm that hopes to do good while gathering data were among the nine startups that competed last night at the first Annual Inter-Collegiate Mixer for Entrepreneurship (AIM4E). One of them would be named by the event’s judges as “Boston’s Most Innovative Start-up.”
The event featured startups tied to a number of area colleges, as well as a panel fielding questions from student entrepreneurs moderated by André M. Porter, executive director of the state’s Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (OSBE).
The winner of the evening, selected after online voting from the various start-ups’ fans and then a final round of judges, was TaxiRightNow. The service, currently bootstrapped by founder and Babson MBA candidate Sam Garzon, allows users to hail a cab via smartphone.
Garzon admitted that the first question people have is how it competes with the rapidly expanding Uber service, but he insisted that Uber leaves plenty of room for regular taxi users as it focuses on higher-priced town car services.
“We’re going after the taxi rider who takes taxis on a regular basis to work,” he said, pointing to implementation differences that he said gives TaxiRightNow an edge. “Their request goes to a single driver and they say yay or nay, and then it goes to the next driver. With TaxiRightNow we send it simultaneously to every driver around you to respond to.”
TaxiRightNow is also working closely with taxi companies as it works towards its public rollout in Boston and Cambridge, scheduled for about a month from now.
In contrast, Uber taken a gleeful anti-establishment tack in its marketing.
TaxiRightNow’s more collaborative approach means it will be launching with about 100 cabs through various existing taxi companies when it launches in Cambridge. Garzon said he hopes to launch with another 200 cabs in Boston.
Other startups on display:
— Expressionality, the night’s runner up, builds music playlists based on its users’ personality type (Babson affiliated).
— Mixcal provides event listings for college students (Babson affiliated).
— InnerGreek, launched Sept. 6th, offers alumni networking and chapter management tools for fraternity and sorority chapters (Boston University affiliated).
— PollKarma, which was one of my favorites, lets marketers poll smartphone users, while the users can earn donations for their preferred charity and cause-related badges for themselves (Harvard affiliated).
— EMOspeech offers call centers a way to quietly monitor customer frustration through voice analysis (Massachusetts Institute of Technology affiliated).
— USpin helps balance personalities and preferences when booking nights out on the town (Northeastern affiliated).
— Studifi is targeting Blackboard with a mix of classroom tools with a strong social component, including intuitive group-making features (Worcester Polytechnic Institute affiliated).
— Pelkey Design has been working to reinvent the pedicab (Wentworth Institute of Technology affiliated).