SEP – Where Are They Now? Justine Avoudikpon

SWIFTE is a university ride-share app, which allows students to share rides with their fellow students for a low price around their college towns and from city to city. We aim to help 20.2 million college students save money on gas, reduce commute time, and most importantly help reduce climate change by reducing the amount of pollution and cars on our roads. SWIFTE is only 7 months old and was first launched for beta testing at the University of Georgia, but is now at 15 schools across the United States, available to download in both app stores and android stores. Through the process of expanding our app, and participating the WBENC SEP program, we found that not only was this app useful for college students, but it would also benefit the greater public. We are currently in the process of pivoting to expanding our app to businesses to use as a way of incentives their employees to take an active part in reducing traffic and climate change by carpool to work together.

The United States is famous for many things …. one of which is traffic. We sit in traffic going to work every morning, coming home, and even on our midnight snack runs. It is 2016, a year where global warming is increasing at an alarming rate, CO2 emissions are the leading cause of pollution, and the Great Barrier Reef has died. We are living in a world where drastic changes need to take place in the way we live our everyday life. In the United States, 98% of Americans drive alone. That means we have a lot of drivers with extra space and too many cars on the road. That is where SWIFTE comes in, an app that acts as a search engine for unused car space in hopes of reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion. SWIFTE matches drivers, with extra space in their car, with riders who want to be dropped off along the way or at the same end destination. Not only is it a platform for community carpooling, but it is a social application. Both drivers and riders can create robust profiles that sync with social media accounts and display facts about themselves – all to provide transparency throughout the process. Our drivers are not for hire- rather just members of the community whom happen to be traveling at the same time. The drivers may set a price that only covers gas (nothing more) and can split the cost with the rider through the app using Stripe or PayPal. Users can also join specific communities- such as universities, companies, or special events. This allows for more specialization within the application as well as the option for certain companies or Universities to incentivize and track user’s progress.

SWIFTE launched in March of 2016 at UGA and has spread to over 15 universities since then. At each university about 12% of the student population has downloaded the application, and in January 2017 we plan on opening up the app to the general public. This means that everyone from employees to concert goers can start to use SWIFTE!

Last week SWIFTE had the honor of attending the largest start-up competition in the Mediterranean, BDL Accelerate 2016 Forum.  The conference offered free accommodation to the participants, but not airfare. My cofounder Sofia DeMay and I were able to afford the airfare thanks to the generous donation from our WBENC SEP mentors at Avis Budget Group. My mentor Lynn Boccio has been very supportive since the WBENC conference by first inviting SWIFTE to present at the Billion Dollar Roundtable in Atlanta, and now sponsoring us to attend the conference. Lynn has also been supportive in helping us apply for a patent on our app.

Our trip to BDL Accelerate 2016 Forum was an amazing and eye opening experience. Beirut, Lebanon is an incredible, modern city! During the conference we got to hear from a number of incredible speakers, including Steve Wozniak and Tony Fadell and were thrilled to have many doors opened for us. As a result of the conference we are now in the process of creating a potential partnership with a similar app in Lebanon. We are also meeting with potential angel investors in the next couple of weeks. It was an amazing opportunity for us to hear from incredible entrepreneurs and investors, as well as exchange ideas with startups from around the world! Some of the best advice that we heard was from Tony Fadell, reminding us to “Create a painkiller, not a vitamin”. This resonated with us at SWIFTE because the idea for our application came from a problem both our co-founders felt, as well as our peers! We hope that we have created something that not only can make your life better, but make the world a better place, one car at a time!

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Posted on November 18, 2016 .