Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.
During the summer of 2017, ElecTrip co-founder and CEO, Mandeep Patel recognized an opportunity to more efficiently and effectively serve the city-to-city travel needs of large corporate employers. Executives at BP, his employer at the time, explained the issue: flights were too expensive and time-consuming, buses and trains were inconsistent and didn’t take people from the point of origin to the final destination, and driving themselves massively cut into potentially billable executive productivity.
He decided that during the upcoming fall school semester, he would start a city-to-city transportation service using the most operationally efficient mode of transportation: electrically-powered Teslas.
Soon after starting the company, Mandeep brought on Eliott Lee (co-founder and current COO) and ElecTrip pivoted the business model from single-seat tickets to a full vehicle trip (more like Uber).
“The primary advantage ElecTrip has can be broken down to cost and service level,” said Mandeep. “Our ticketed price is on par in terms of cost ($250 for a one way from Houston to Austin), but we are the only service that is truly door to door – without loss of time and increased effort from additional modes of transportation.”
A Road Less Traveled
Scheduling flexibility and safety are additional differentiators and benefits of ElecTrip: Flying and bus travel require passengers to adjust their schedules to their rigid departure times and after a long day of work, driving long distances back to an office or home can be dangerous.
New competitive entrants to the market (which include rideshare platforms, autonomous vehicles, auto companies, etc.) lack the operational advantages of ElecTrip – building and maintaining the service level of the company’s risk-averse customers have come to expect is a huge barrier. That work includes making sure vehicles contain all necessary amenities (WiFi, laptop chargers, snacks/drinks, etc), have sufficient charge to reach its destination, and have an experienced driver and ground support team to make repairs. In the past few months, ElecTrip has worked with a number of major corporate clients including oil and gas, law, and consulting firms.
Long term, ElecTrip is developing the technology and infrastructure to support fully self-driving EV fleets in the regional travel space.
“Being a student entrepreneur is the best experience,” said Eliott. “Meeting mentors outside the classroom or student organizations is incredibly exciting and motivating. For the past two years we’ve attended conferences, pitch competitions (won the GSEA U.S. Nationals at Startup Grind), and met all kinds of entrepreneurs and investors.”
According to Mandeep and Eliott, the LaunchPad Lift program has been “incredibly valuable”. Before the cohort even began, the cofounders were introduced to industry leaders and mentors including both Techstars alumni and Techstars accelerator directors.
“We’ve received advice and insight on some of our most pressing needs, including scaling and logistics, negotiating corporate partnerships, and managing the sales cycle,” said Mandeep. “With generous connections to exceptional mentors, I think Lift is helpful to student entrepreneurs, no matter what their industry!”