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

5/4/11Follow @curtwoodward

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who handle the technical heavy lifting. Plus, it aims to be more responsive to the small businesses that often run car services in individual cities.

“Some of the first attempts out there were pretty rickety. They have iterated, their products have gotten better,” Phair says of larger competitors. “But the perspective that we’re coming from is about making things convenient for both sides.”

Pinpoint Pickup’s booking system, which serves each request to the next driver in line, also means that customers aren’t going to get chased down by a ton of competing drivers trying to grab the same fare.

“With some services … you get 20 follow-up calls, and every one of those companies will try to pitch you,” she says. “I don’t know a single customer that is looking for a 16th company to call them and say, ‘I’ll do it for five bucks less—cancel your reservation.’”

The rise of these tech-savvy middlemen for car booking mirrors a lot of the business stories we’ve seen in the past few years: Cheap, abundant computing power and software smarts applied to a highly fragmented market ripe for technologies that can make it more efficient for consumers.

But in Pinpoint Pickup’s case, building the car-operator network to make it all happen was an old-school business tale: Phair simply took a lot of plane rides to new cities, jumped in the back of a lot of town cars, and chatted up a ton of business owners. “If I wanted to get into a car on the same day, I’d call seven companies,” Phair says. “Some of them were wonderful, extremely professional. Some of them, I was clearly waking someone up.”

All that aggressive screening paid off with a growing network of cities—Dallas-Fort Worth is currently testing, and New Orleans might be next. The company is also eyeing New York City, but also doesn’t want to make that move haphazardly. Beyond that, Phair says her economics-nerd side gets really excited by the possibility of expanding internationally—”we’re in serious negotiations,” Phair says.

The company isn’t necessarily beating the bushes for financing—you get the sense that the founders have enjoyed building this thing from the ground up on their own. But Pinpoint Pickup is starting to talk more about itself and the large network of cities it’s built in pretty quick fashion, and knows that it will take more resources, particularly more marketing muscle, to expand even more rapidly.

“We’re more than happy to talk to funders, and if we could find somebody that’s a great fit, we’d be more than happy to explore that opportunity,” Phair says. “We’re competing against people that have millions of dollars worth of funding, so at some point if we really want to take those technological leaps, we’ll need to compete.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • Town Car Chris

    I have tried both Uber and Pinpoint Pickup as a driver. Uber is sleek in many ways, but Pinpoint Pickup has a more complete system. They understand and empower drivers. Pinpoint also offers choices for customers that Uber doesn’t: cash payments, advance reservations, web based booking, and a blackberry app.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.radkowski Christopher Radkowski

    Uber is a great service but during extreme traffic in Chicago on Friday evenings for a example, sometimes it makes sense to hire a traditional limo company such as http://stretchlimochicago.com with flat rates rather then being surcharged for time and traffic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.radkowski Christopher Radkowski

    Uber is a great service but during extreme traffic in Chicago on Friday evenings for a example, sometimes it makes sense to hire a traditional limo company such as http://stretchlimochicago.com with flat rates rather then being surcharged for time and traffic.