With Help from BMW, MyCityWay Rolls Out Popular City-Guide App Around the World

5/3/11Follow @arleneweintraub

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ice skating rinks, swimming pools, and other attractions. Then city residents started weighing in on what they wanted added to NYC Way, and MyCityWay’s founders responded, packing in features such as real-time feeds from traffic cameras and lists of public restrooms.

The new version of NYC Way will be even more sophisticated. It will start by asking if users are residents, commuters, or tourists, and then customize the offerings to their answers. In addition to showing the menu of offerings on the home screen, it will respond to the rotation of the phone to landscape orientation by displaying a map of the city, with various buttons that users can push to see exactly what they’re searching for and where to find it. Looking for a coffee shop near the subway station you just exited? Press the coffee button and the shops will show up on your map. Do you need to find a bathroom urgently (thanks to that coffee you had an hour ago)? Press the restrooms button, and all the public facilities in the area will pop up, too.

NYC Way will also allow users to pay their parking tickets through the app, and to get a direct line to the city’s popular 311 service, where they can report issues such as unsanitary restaurants or misbehaving landlords. “We really interact with our users and use their feedback” to improve the app, Bhatia says.

With data provided by governments around the world, MyCityWay has rolled out apps in 38 U.S. cities and about a dozen foreign towns. The company is now preparing to introduce four versions in India, for Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore, Bhatia says. By the end of the year, it hopes to double the total size of its city roster.

It may seem strange that BMW became enamored of MyCityWay—an app that was originally designed to be used in perhaps the least car-friendly town in the world. But Bernhard Blattel, the head of Project Mobility Services for BMW, says the whole point of i Ventures is to think beyond the steering wheel. “We defined a strategy two years ago to become the leading provider of products and services for individual mobility,” Blattel says. “We are convinced that in the future, customers will need services they can use whether they’re in a car, in one of our cars, taking public transportation, or even at home planning a trip. We decided on purpose to look outside the car.”

Blattel says BMW was also stunned by how popular NYC Way had become in such a short time. The app was downloaded a million times in its first year. (There have now been 2.5 million downloads of all the city apps total, the company says.) And all of that came from word of mouth. “It’s a great example of a fast-moving company helping people plan their trips and satisfying their need for mobility,” Blattel says.

MyCityWay is now working on monetizing all those eyeballs. The company takes in some advertising revenue, but the founders believe mobile commerce will become increasingly important. Today people can buy movie and event tickets, as well as takeout food, through the app, from which MyCityWay takes a cut. Bhatia predicts these sorts of services will become more prevalent in all its city guides—providing the primary revenue source for the company. “Mobile commerce will be extremely powerful,” she says.

Bhatia adds that MyCityWay and BMW have become strategic partners with a shared vision of the future. “Yes, there are city guides, but what we’re trying to create is a location-based platform,” she says. “We’re marrying your location with your intent. We’re trying to build smarter cities.”

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