Part of an Entrepreneur Q&A Series [see past Q&As here: GLTYR]
Whisk (http://www.whisk.me) is a startup currently based in New York City that aims to change the way transportation providers offer, and customers use, car ride services. It has a few competitors such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and Hailo although their business models are different. Whisk was founded by three people - Michael Ibrahim (CEO), Ram Trichur (President), and Vivek Chandran (CTO). Ram happens to be a close relative - so I did a Q&A with him about what he and his team are trying to do with Whisk.
Yottapoint: What is Whisk?
Ram: We are an on-demand ride service. Customers can request a ride through their smart phone and control the entire ride experience through the Whisk App. We are also quickly becoming the go-to technology platform for the industry, transforming the way in which current car service operators run their business.
Yottapoint: Why did you pick this name? I noticed there are a number of other small companies with the same name [Whisk (NYC), Whisk (SF), SF Whisk] - do you think this might make it difficult for people to reach you or learn more about your services?
Ram: We had a healthy debate about that! A couple of things influenced our decision. In the context of moving people, the name intuitively conveys taking someone to their destination quickly. We were also able acquire a nice domain (http://whisk.me) which builds on that sentiment. We also felt that a discoverable brand is less important for a mobile only service ...once someone has the App on the phone, it becomes a habit, and a majority of new customer acquisition comes from existing customer referrals and press mentions (vs. Googling for something generic like "car service"). There was of course the downside that searching for Whisk on the app store will be a tough fight for relevance ....we are happy that after just a few months now we are the top result on the Apple app-store and the second result on Google-play store if you type in Whisk.
Yottapoint: How/why did you come up with the idea for Whisk?
Ram: The co-founders of Whisk are New Yorkers. Though we have a good public transportation system, getting a cab in NYC is difficult especially if the weather is bad, you have young kids or it is the notorious "shift change time" for taxis. Going in a taxi is also not a very pleasant experience always. You are cramped for room, some drivers are just rude, and if you have a problem - all you can do is call 311. My colleague and I at McKinsey discussed this in late 2012. We realized that there were other well-funded players in the market - but after much research, we concluded that the market was still nascent and there was a tremendous opportunity to partner with the industry to build something really big.
Yottapoint: Do you operate only in NYC right now? If so, any plans to expand to other cities?
Ram: NYC is 40% of the ground transportation market in the US. We are well on our way to establishing a solid base here. In the next several months we will be expanding to a few other metros.
Yottapoint: You seem to have several competitors – Uber being the big one, but also Lyft, Sidecar, Hailo. Can you help us understand the key differences between Whisk and these other services?