Bridj Runs Out of Gas After Deal With Car Company Falls Through

Bridj’s vision of transforming urban transportation is no more, after the Boston-based startup announced over the weekend that it’s shutting down.

Bridj—which operated a transit service that used a private fleet of shuttle vans coordinated by mobile app—decided to wind down operations after a deal with an unnamed “major car company” fell through, CEO Matt George wrote in a blog post. Bridj was pursuing a “sizable transaction” with the car company in lieu of raising another round of venture capital. There are varying reports of how much capital Bridj had raised, but it was at least $1.8 million in equity funding and at least $4.2 million in debt funding, according to SEC filings. (George hasn’t responded to a request for further comment.)

The startup employed around 50 people and was on pace to generate more than $10 million in revenue this year, George told the Boston Globe.

Bridj was part of a trend of companies using apps, data analytics, and other technologies to try and transform how people and goods move around, particularly in urban areas—think Uber and Instacart. Bridj’s demise speaks to the difficulty of building a large, thriving business in transportation, although the reason given for Bridj’s end is a common pitfall for venture-backed startups in any sector.

The idea behind Bridj was to offer a bus service that adds and removes routes faster than a public transit system by crunching data, including requests from riders, as well as information from external sources like the U.S. Census and social media. Bridj’s fares ranged from $1.50 to $7 per ride, the Globe reported; in other words, the service was often more expensive than public transit, but cheaper than taxis or driving alone.

Bridj began offering its service in the Boston area in 2014. It later expanded to Washington, DC; Austin, TX; and Kansas City, through a one-year pilot program that ended in March. The Kansas City program was a partnership with the local transportation authority and Ford, which provided the vans. (Meanwhile, Ford acquired Chariot, a company similar to Bridj, in September.)

Bridj’s core customers were commuters, but Bridj intended to serve a broader array of people, and had reportedly talked with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority about offering late-night shuttle service. The startup was also developing a service that would use its vans to deliver goods, with plans to complete the deliveries with package-toting robots that can roll down sidewalks.

Instead, it’s a “sad and frustrating” end for Bridj, George wrote, but he sees opportunity for more innovation in urban mobility.

“While we have been one small part of starting the conversation around mobility in the modern city, we hope that you will continue to support innovators and leaders who will pick up where we left off, delivering on the promise of what cities can and should be,” George wrote.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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