Doug Breakstone, Founder of TruckHike.com, developed a ride-sharing software platform. His startup was one of 10 finalists at the latest CTNext Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, a Shark Tank-style pitch event in which Connecticut-based entrepreneurs and startups pitch to a panel of expert judges for a chance to win up to $10,000.
Innovation Destination Hartford: When and why did you start your company?
BREAKSTONE: I started TruckHike in early 2015. I saw and recognized an unaddressed market segment that correlated with today’s sharing economy and began to formulate my idea. Specifically, there is a significant increase and acceptance of personalized travel alternatives.
IDH: How did you develop the business concept?
BREAKSTONE: In early 2015, I found myself having to be in Washington, D.C., numerous times during a three-month period. Having gotten tired of driving, I explored alternative means of transportation (bus, train, and plane) that were available for my next trip.
Living in Waterbury made each alternative very inconvenient and expensive. The bus and train each turned a 5 ½-hour drive into an 8-hour excursion. A plane was the closest in time, but the cost of the airfare made it undesirable. I wanted to find another means to travel that was convenient, cost effective, and did not take an exorbitant amount of time.
During a drive to Washington, the proverbial light bulb went on and the idea for TruckHike was developed somewhere between the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the beltway outside of Washington. I realized that I was passing and being passed by thousands of commercial vehicles, each with an empty seat. I realized my problem could be solved if I could arrange for a commercial vehicle to stop at my local highway entrance to pick me up and drop me off close to my final destination. TruckHike was born.
IDH: Describe how TruckHike works.
BREAKSTONE: TruckHike is a software platform that allows drivers to list their routes and allows travelers to reserve passage on any of the routes listed. Drivers and travelers are able to vet each other during the interest phase of a ride. Once each is comfortable with the other, the software allows travelers to pay for their passage and reserve space. Within 24 hours of the ride’s completion, TruckHike is paid the fare plus fees and taxes, and the driver is paid the remaining amount collected.
IDH: How did you become involved in the CTNext Entrepreneur Innovation Awards?
BREAKSTONE: I learned that CTNext might be able to provide some guidance and assistance for my project, and made an appointment to meet with Eric Knight, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at reSET. When we discussed TruckHike, Eric thought it would be a business that might get a grant from the state to help bring it to the “next level.” My second application allowed me to present TruckHike at the last round of awards. Unfortunately, I did not get a grant that evening.
IDH: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a startup?
BREAKSTONE: Although TruckHike has attracted an excellent board of advisors who come from the trucking industry, governmental liaison, and software segments—and are being helpful to an extent I never imagined—without financial backing it is very difficult to get even small projects accomplished. The pace of development has been all too slow. Now that I am seeking a realistic amount of financing, I expect TruckHike to be an ongoing concern by mid-2017.
IDH: Mid-2017 is right around the corner. Where do you see your company in the next three to five years?
BREAKSTONE: Because TruckHike will be the first business to exploit this transportation segment, we will be the only company able to build capacity and therefore we expect to have a long-lasting monopoly. Because there are numerous governmental rules and regulations to satisfy, as well as insurance requirements that have to be met, we will not be fighting for market share in an already existing market. We are creating the market.
It is my belief that TruckHike will maintain its monopoly over this segment and remain in business for the foreseeable future. The other scenario is TruckHike may be purchased by a much larger ride-sharing company looking to expand into other areas within the first five years of operation.
Learn more about TruckHike by visiting www.truckhike.com.