Conservation | August 21, 2018

Tennessee impact fund’s first investment aims to ease traffic congestion

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, August 20 – LaunchTN, an organization that supports Tennessee-based startups, has made its first investment from its $1.7 million seed-stage impact fund, backing a Nashville-based ride sharing app called Hytch.

Hytch isn’t the standard ride-sharing app; its rewards-based service aims to incentivize people to make more sustainably-minded travel decisions, whether that’s sharing app-based rides, carpooling, or taking public transit.

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The app launched in February in partnership with Nissan, and offers users rewards every time they log a ride that they share with another user. Users sign up for the app and tag each other as ride-sharers once they begin a trip. The app then calculates the miles they travel and offers rewards based on distance traveled and other factors, like ride-sharing during rush hour. So far it has logged almost four million shared miles.

The company’s model has a number of variables that affect consistency of the service from place to place and hour to hour. For example, it only offers redeemable cash-based awards in places where it has corporate sponsors, like Nissan. Rewards earned can change based on what time of day users log rides, distance, or what sponsors are covering particular areas.

Hytch users outside of sponsored areas earn trees—as in a tally of the number of trees saved by sharing rides.

For corporate sponsors, backing Hytch is a “PR or recruiting play, as well as a way to collect valuable consumer data on how to evolve as mobility shifts,” Hypepotamus reports.

The company’s website notes all of these variables and says the app is still in beta mode. The startup appeals to early adopters’ as collaborators “helping build a community that is conscious about the impact their transit decisions have on themselves and others.”

LaunchTN’s director John Lanahan spoke of the startup’s potential in addressing the country’s urban mobility challenges. (For a prime example, see New York City, which recently passed a law to limit the number of ride-hailing app drivers on the city’s streets, while facing major challenges with public transit infrastructure that could be a key issue in New York’s gubernatorial race.)

Hytch has an opportunity “to address growing mobility issues that plague many urban markets,” Lanahan said. “And for every dollar of revenue they generate, they are able to quantify the amount of associated impact for Tennessee or any market in which they operate.”