Posted: January 01, 2010
Tech Startup: Intrago Corp.By Eric Peterson
INITIAL LIGHT BULB: The creator of the G.E.M., the GM-then-Chrysler product that was the first neighborhood electric vehicle and remains the most successful one to date, Dan Sturges started Intrago in 2006 to fill a market need for "something that was between a bicycle and a car," as he puts it.
"I had worked in the field of introducing electric vehicles," Sturges says. "I was interested in smaller electric vehicles and how they'll fit into the mix."
Sturges says Intrago solves the "last-mile problem" with a combination of small electric vehicles and a platform that encompasses software and a security and recharging system. Launching beta tests next month at a pair of Southern California resorts, the company has five employees split between its headquarters in Boulder and an office in San Diego.
IN A NUTSHELL: "We're not a manufacturer," Sturges says. "We've developed a platform to run the software and the security for renting small electric vehicles."
Intrago customers will register and reserve a vehicle online - typically an electric bike or electric scooter - and pick it up from a rack-like charging station, unlocking it with a personal key.
"They snap in very Dustbuster-like," Sturges says of the fit between the vehicles and the charging station.
Users can return it to the same charging station or another closer to their destination. One location could install a dozen or more stations, each capable of hosting 200 vehicles. Intrago's platform not only encompasses reservations and security, but the operator can also remotely monitor the vehicles wirelessly or via GPS. "It's a comprehensive intelligent system," Sturges says, and runs 24/7 without a human operator.
After beta-testing the concept and fundraising in the first half of 2010, Intrago's business plan calls for scaling up production in the latter half of the year.
"We can run company-owned and -operated systems at locations like college campuses or we have the ability to franchise it," Sturges says. "The business models can get somewhat complex." He describes contracts between car-sharing upstart Zipcar and colleges that guarantee a minimum threshold payment.
"We see for the consumer a price point of about $6 an hour," adds Sturges, noting that insurance is included in the rate. "We refer to it as a ‘micro-rental'- a rental that is available in 15-minute blocks or even by the minute."
THE MARKET: Sturges says Intrago is looking at downtown areas, college and corporate campuses, and resorts as key targets for its systems - essentially any place that is both dense and has issues with auto traffic.
"We've gotten a remarkable amount of interest from around the world, as well as from inside the U.S.," he says. "We've gotten interest from places like Malta and islands in the Caribbean, as well as South America."
FINANCING: Intrago has raised a total of $2 million in angel funding since its founding in 2006. Sturges says the company aims to close on a multimillion-dollar Series A venture funding round in 2010.
"THERE HAS BEEN A LOT HAPPENING IN EUROPE WITH BICYCLE-SHARING PROGRAMS IN THE CITIES. OUR RESEARCH SHOWS THAT PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO USE A SMALL ELECTRIC VEHICLE THAN A TRADITIONAL PEDAL-POWERED BIKE."
- DAN STURGES, INTRAGO PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER
WHERE: BOULDER | FOUNDED: 2006 | WWW.INTRAGOMOBILITY.COM
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com