site and I think it would be of value to you’?” Echeruo wonders no longer. Garnering 1.1 million visitors each month, hopstop.com (www.hopstop.com) offers real-time door-to-door subway, bus, and walking directions in five cities: New York (including the Metro area: Westchester, Long Island, and parts of New Jersey); Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The Business Innovator of the Year Award recognizes companies that have set trends and broken new ground in a particular industry.
“[In the beginning], I was uncertain,” recalls the 34-year-old Harvard Business School graduate. “But I received strong responses that this would be a service consumers would like.” Before founding HopStop, Echeruo worked in finance. But the lack of easily accessible public transportation directions led him to become not only an entrepreneur but also a problem-solver.
“I was driven more by a desire to solve a problem that was very clear to me,” he says. Before HopStop, most people navigated their way by relying on Websites that provide driving directions, but that approach was ineffective in cities like New York, with extensive public transportation systems, says Echeruo. He adds, “HopStop was one venture that had promise in terms of usage and need.”
Echeruo began by researching the transit system and figuring out how to collect all the information in a manageable way. “I was translating the problems directly to the software developers,” he says. “I had to streamline the process and make it efficient.”
In 2006, the company saw revenues push toward $3 million. Later this year, public transportation directions for Baltimore and Seattle will be added to the site. Also, Echeruo recently launched tripology.com, a site that connects travelers with specialized travel agents. But for HopStop, Echeruo has four employees focusing on technology and marketing, while he focuses on product development and business strategy. He says, “The ultimate goal is to build a viable company that solves real problems.”
Rising Star Award: Duly Noted Inc. Effie T. Brown
“It came about when I was a production assistant,” says Effie T. Brown about how she chose her company’s name. “I had to pick up cigarette butts.” That experience helped Brown duly note that everything starts at the bottom and works up. The Rising Star Award recognizes individuals, age 21-35, whose outstanding skills, professionalism, and perseverance distinguish them as future business leaders.
It’s been a long rise to the top for Brown, 35, whose independently owned production company, Duly Noted Inc. (www.dulynotedinc.com), produced movies such as Real Women Have Curves and In the Cut. Earlier this year, Brown began raising funds for her next film and recently received her first financial investment; she’ll use it to produce Bury Me Standing, a drama starring veteran actress Alfre Woodard and rapper-actor Mos Def.
But in the meantime, Brown is celebrating the worldwide premiere of her film Rocket Science, the first of eight films she’ll produce through her Los Angeles-based company. The movie tells the story of a boy with a speech impediment who joins the debate team to impress a fellow classmate.
Following the release of