You Drink. Driver on Tap Will Drive (Your Car).

Drinking and driving is a dangerous, expensive, and overwhelming problem in Michigan. Driver on Tap, a new startup based out of MSU’s Hatch, intends to fight it. A novel rideshare program, Driver on Tap has developed a simple app that makes it easy to avoid getting behind the wheel when drinking. Open the app, tap…

Jimmy Lucia, left, transports passengers as part of the taxi-like ride sharing service he works for in Hollywood, California, on May 31, 2013. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Drinking and driving is a dangerous, expensive, and overwhelming problem in Michigan. Driver on Tap, a new startup based out of MSU’s Hatch, intends to fight it.

A novel rideshare program, Driver on Tap has developed a simple app that makes it easy to avoid getting behind the wheel when drinking. Open the app, tap to request a ride, and their drivers will drive you home in your own car.

Founders:

Jose Ramirez
Troy Koszegi

Where the idea came from:

Growing up in Honduras, Jose never faced the problem of drinking and driving. Many living in the (often dangerous) area chose to have drivers; so, when he started going out to drink, it was never an issue.

Once he moved here, he noticed that many of his friends had DUIs and when he checked the public records he was astounded by the numbers. Seeing those numbers sparked the idea and the business grew from there.

The problem being solved:

Driver on Tap wants to decrease the number of DUIs and (lesser known) OUIs, which can be given to people driving under the legal blood-alcohol limit.

Exciting aspects:

Jose is excited about the logistics behind solving the problem. As a computer science major, he enjoys working with the software that will solve the “traveling salesman problem” surrounding the business. As in, figuring out where people will be, the best way to get the drivers there and how to return the drivers after they drop off the customer. “It’s a pretty complicated task,” says Jose. “And using software to solve it is pretty exciting.”

Target Customer:

While many may see East Lansing as a prime spot, and students as a prime target, “East Lansing a great walking town,” says Jose. Even though they will focus on a few places in East Lansing, Driver on Tap wants to expand their reach into downtown Lansing and the surrounding areas. Their target customers will be the middle-aged crowd that you would find at places like golf courses, beer festivals and even weddings.

Biggest Challenge:

The biggest challenge Jose has run across is the liability issue that comes up when you drive someone else’s car. But, he says, because of their “no fault” policies, “Michigan is proving to be a very nice state for this.” There are always going to be unknown issues when you step into someone else’s car, but having a good lawyer also helps them deal with all the possibilities.

Surprises:

Researching the industry, Jose has gotten a better glimpse at people’s habits. He’s realized that many aren’t making the decision to drink and drive knowing they may be impaired. It’s not a matter of “I’m drunk but I’m going to drive anyway,” but rather, “I’ve only had a few drinks and I feel fine, I can drive.” This attitude is what gets many people in trouble as Jose has noticed most people don’t really have a sense of what a .012 blood alcohol level really is.

So many factors can effect your blood alcohol level that it’s a lot easier to drink and drive than people realize.

Funding:

Because of their low startup costs, Driver on Tap has been primarily self-funded through Jose and Troy. They’ve had some assistance from the Hatch and their biggest upcoming cost will occur once they start hiring and running background checks.

The Future:

Like many startups, Jose is aiming for the “5 million in 5 years” goal. But sooner than that he is aiming to have at least 100 customers in 3 months and would like to expand all across Michigan in three years.

He would like to be able to help out someone in Detroit who needs to get back home to Lansing after a late dinner or event.

Advice:

To be your most productive, Jose says, “You have to learn to delegate. Accept that you aren’t the best at everything and you screw up too.” He points out that worrying about micromanaging everything can wear you out very quickly.

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