Pinpoint Pickup, the Car-Booking Startup Facing off Against Uber, has Seven Cities Under its Belt—and Wants More

For anyone who’s ever stood in the rain waiting for a cramped bus, or wondered if that hurried call to the taxi dispatcher was going to pay off, there’s now a quick way to book a pricier, but more luxurious ride by tapping a few times on your smartphone.

I’m not talking about Uber, the San Francisco town-car booking service that’s attracted big investment dollars and tons of positive press. Nope—it’s Pinpoint Pickup, a bootstrapped Seattle-area startup that’s already way ahead of Uber in market share, and even has its eyes an international expansion.

Pinpoint Pickup is run by a trio of entrepreneurs—two here in the Seattle area, a third in Southern California—who still have their day jobs while growing their new company. Pinpoint Pickup just released its “Ride in Style” app for Android smartphones, joining existing apps for iPhone and BlackBerry.

And while flashier competitor Uber is making its first major expansions—testing in New York City and planning to hire in Seattle, Boston and elsewhere—Pinpoint Pickup is already operating in Seattle and a half-dozen other metropolitan areas, and expanding to more cities in the coming weeks.

Co-founder Desiree Phair says the Los Angeles area is the company’s busiest market so far, but she wasn’t sharing many detailed statistics yet—“We have earned revenue, I can go on record saying that,” she says with a laugh. Pinpoint Pickup also serves Boston, Las Vegas, the San Francisco Bay Area, Phoenix and Tucson, AZ, with more cities queued up.

That’s a pretty rapid pace for a company that started in late 2009. And it’s meant a lot of airports, fast food joints, and test-rides for Phair, an economist by trade whose day job is analyzing labor markets for the state government. Before Pinpoint Pickup started, Phair says she always thought those wild founder stories were probably a bit exaggerated. But now she gets it.

“Oh my goodness, I just had no idea how much there was to learn,” Phair says. “I don’t think I’m a super-duper cocky person. But I went into it a little bit cocky.'”

The company’s smartphone app automatically detects the user’s location and guides them through a simple four-step booking process. The price is quoted in a round figure, tip included—think “about $50”— with a disclaimer that some fees could be added for tolls or long wait times. There’s a pretty broad … Next Page »

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