He Answered a Need. 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 that have extensive public transportation systems, says Echeruo. “HopStop was a venture that had promise in terms of usage and need.â€ He 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 software developers,â€ he adds. HopStop is really good at integrating routes. Â What HopStop had is what Apple didn’t–local transportation systems.
He Figured Out the Proper Model. Before HopStop and Tripology, Echeruo had several startup ideas that never panned out because “the business models just didn’t work.â€ But HopStop was based on a hyper-local advertising business model. “We could target Â very specific customers, down to the street level.â€ Â Enabling advertisers to reach hyper-local, geo-targeted audiences at scale is what made HopStop appealing, giving Apple access to technology that allows it to service advertisers and generate revenues.
He Evolved With His Customers. “Focus in on the customer. Know what they need and how their needs are evolving over time. Adjust the product and make sure the customer is always happy,â€ says Echeruo. One such evolution is HopStop Live, introduced in April, which provides real-time transit information using a crowdsourced service. Worldwide users contribute and receive current info that is helpful when unforeseen incidents cause transit disruptions.
He Checked His Ego at the Door. Even before Echeruo sold his tech companies, he stepped down as CEO of Tripology in 2008 and HopStop in 2009. He brought in CEOs that had expertise in growth and operations. For HopStop that person was Joe Meyer, former vice president and general manager of AOL’s Quigo Technologies. Echeruo became aware that his “passion and core competencies–to create companies and solve problems–were no longer in syncâ€ with the needs of the enterprises he’d founded. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to keep clinging to power, but he says, know when to step aside.
He Didn’t Focus On a Big Payday. Avoid being seduced by the idea that you should create a startup with the express intent of selling it quickly. Echeruo says. Also partner with other businesses to help evolve the product and to grow the company. While HopStop was willing to take into consideration offers from companies that were a good strategic operational fit, it wasn’t focusing on a sale but on developing mobile applications and opening these up to more mobile platforms. For instance, its partnership with TCS (TeleCommunications Systems Inc.) in 2012 allowed its technology to be put in multiple carrier cell phones.
-Reporting by F. Romall Smalls
Entries for the Black Enterprise Small Business Awards are open for a multitude of categories diversifying fields and demographics, like the Techpreneur of the Year award, given to a company that is delivering groundbreaking tech products or is thriving in the digital world. The Family Business of the Year award, spotlights successes made by relatives combining family force. Business minded young people under 19 can apply for the Teenpreneur of the Year award. And Franchise Company of the Year award is presented to a franchise owner who demonstrates outstanding performance and is a leader in the industry. A new category added this year is the Community Pillar of the Year Award, which goes to an entrepreneur whose company’s products or services has enriched people’s lives and who is committed to building both his or her brand and community.
The deadline to enter Black Enterprise’s Small Business Awards is March 31, 2015.
The 2015 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by Nationwide, May 13-16, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Be sure to enter our Elevator Pitch Competition to qualify for the $10,000 grand prize. To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/es/.Â Join us at the Entrepreneurs Summit, Where Innovation and Capital Meet.