Distracted driving is a huge problem that endangers lives.
We’ve all done it, and we know we shouldn’t (When was the last time you checked Facebook, sent a Tweet, or texted while driving?). Thumb Tied is an anti-distracted driving app that helps drivers keep their focus on the road. Even better, it allows pairing, so that you can prevent other members of your group or family (e.g., teens!) from being able to text and drive.
That text, tweet, or post can wait…and Thumb Tied makes sure it does.
Problem being solved:
While there are plenty of organizations addressing the drinking and driving problem, the disturbing and growing issue of distracted driving hasn’t had much attention. Thumb Tied wants to change that.
Where the idea came from:
Through a previous business, co-founder Kevin was faced with the distracted issue. He supervised about 14 drivers and was constantly worried about their safety. He raised the issue with Waylon and the idea stuck. They continued to think about it until Waylon saw a clip on CSNBC that addressed a growing need for solutions and he thought, “We need to do something about this.” So, they did.
While they initially thought about adding something to the vehicle, they eventually decided that dealing with the phone would be the way to go.
To Waylon, the same things that make this market exciting, are also the things that keep him up at night. “It’s a brand new industry,” he says, “people might not see a need for it. Or, they might accept it and let it save lives.”
While at first it was just about Kevin and keeping his team safe, as they began to develop the idea further, the opportunities grew. “We’ve all had experiences with distracted driving,” says Waylon, “and the more we learn about the people affected, the more important it becomes to do everything we can.”
Thumb Tied’s target customer is evolving as the app changes and grows. While it was originally families they thought to target with their family-friendly prices and protection, they now recognize a much larger market. They see companies that run large numbers of drivers as potential customers.
One of it’s most appealing features, the ability to pair it with multiple phones and give one phone the ability to activate others is attractive to both of those markets. It offers benefits to parents with new and young drivers and also to organizers of large fleets of commercial vehicles.
Waylon says their biggest challenge has been working with Apple iOS and their strict regulations in order to move from being simply an Android app to spanning multiple platforms. In order to work past this, they are hoping to present an upgraded Android version to Apple and go from there.
Waylon was surprised at how much partnerships with consultants or contractors really matter. “You all have to be on the same page.” Especially, he mentioned, with tech companies. Working with them can be challenging but informative.
He was also surprised when he learned about the market and awareness surrounding distracted driving, “Those who are passionate are very, very passionate,” he says, but the issue just hasn’t caught on to the mass public.
Thumb Tied bootstrapped the first version of the app. They began seeing some revenue from that and will be seeking funding through their first sales. To approach new customers, they are using the First Customer Program through the University of Michigan. This will help them with sales and marketing and help attract the customers that will fund the next version of the app.
In one year Thumb Tied would like to be active in the commercial fleet world, working with companies like Two Men and a Truck and healthcare systems that have thousands of drivers a day. In three years they hope to be not only on iOS but have all the major platforms covered. They will develop great family and commercial programs through a national campaign.
To new entrepreneurs, Waylon says, “stay focused and determined. There will be a lot of hurdles to overcome.” Also he recommends doing a lot of research first in order to really know your customers. “Don’t be stubborn, and be willing to make changes.”