A chat in a Leeds bar gave undergraduates Sam Ryan and Barney Williams an idea. Could students taking taxis to common destinations be linked up in some way so that journeys could be shared? It would save students money and improve Leeds’ carbon footprint, but it would also need to be safe in order to attract customers.
That initial conversation led to the development of JumpIn, a taxi-booking and sharing mobile application for students. “By focusing on the Leeds student community and building in reporting networks we’ve made the service secure,” says Sam. “Taxi-sharing is common in the US, for example, but we’ve had to overcome the UK’s negative perception of sharing taxis with strangers.”
2nd year Accounting and Finance student Sam and 3rd year Environment and Business student Barney were joined in the project by 2nd year Medicine student James Gupta who had the technical knowledge to make the app idea a reality. The three formed a company, Forefront Innovations & Solutions Ltd, with JumpIn as its first project. “We wrote a business plan and approached angel investors for our initial capital and also applied for a start-up loan through a government scheme,” says Sam. “We didn’t contact Spark until later, but when we did they gave us lots of advice and support. We received Proof of Concept funding which helped with legalities and also third prize in the 2013 Spark Business Plan Competition.”
Working with two Leeds taxi companies, JumpIn’s open trial started in April and the service has been growing in popularity. “We’ve had lots of feedback which will really help with the app’s development,” says Sam. “The plan is to roll out the service in September and then to expand into other student cities and other business sectors.”
Combining coursework and exams with launching a business has been challenging, but Sam doesn’t see this getting in the way of their expansion plans. “We want to raise a large amount of capital over the summer,” he says. “Our current investors are happy to continue supporting us and we have other potential investors who we can now approach, having shown that the service works. We’ll also look into other funding options, such as crowd-funding, as we’re aiming to grow quickly.”