TaxiTreats turns your cab experience into a more convenient one as it provides everything from condoms, mouthwash, to candy, all in the backseat of your taxi. The founder of TaxiTreats, Brian Shimmerlik, hopes to have his idea available in cabs this summer and we can't express our excitement enough.
Before you created TaxiTreats, what were you doing?
I worked in finance for 6 years for J.P. Morgan and Emigrant Bank. I was miserable! I started my MBA at NYU Stern 2 years ago looking to have a good time and spend the 2 years starting businesses.
When did you first realize that cabs needed something like TaxiTreats for their passengers?
When I started at Stern, I was looking at products that aren’t good enough. People talk about the whole problem-solution approach to identifying opportunities. I think you can just start with what you would like to see improved. I started studying the Taxi TVs and became fascinated with the taxi market. In Manhattan, taxi passengers demonstrate that they value their time and will pay for convenience. So I knew we needed more convenience and a better quality passenger experience.
You won the New York economic development corporation's "next idea" competition, which helped you earn $17,500 in start-up funds and free office space to help realize the initiative. How did this opportunity assist in taking TaxiTreats to the next level?
The NYC Next Idea program has been great. We took the prize money and turned it into two prototypes – first just demo’ing our proprietary release mechanism and then a full, functional, touchscreen, credit-card only mini vending machine. We then leveraged the prototype to raise a Seed Round of financing and launch our units across Manhattan. Beyond the cash, the program helped us develop a relationship with the NYC government and we continue to have the goal of keeping our machines local and maximizing the impact on the NYC economy.
What are some of the accommodations passengers can expect to buy in their cabs?
We are all about giving consumers what they want, when they want it, right where they are. Rather than make assumptions about what will sell, we take a data driven approach and test all sorts of items from condoms to Old Spice to Sour Patch Kids.
What is your biggest tip for entrepreneurs who may be discouraged in following their own dreams of creating their own business?
Just keep fighting. You will always get 99 “no’s” out of 100. The worst case scenario of working to launch a business is to learn a ton, meet really inspired, passionate people and position yourself better for a long, successful career. Entrepreneurship is something you can’t learn on paper.
Whose business career inspires you the most in the way you handle your business?
I love entrepreneurs who are passionate about their product and the consumer experience. I worked directly for Seth Besmertnik and was inspired by the community he has built at Conductor. Entrepreneurs who genuinely view industries differently and take a contrarian approach inspire me. Like electronic cigarettes, that is truly innovative. Uber. Joanne Wilson inspires me as a real entrepreneur-friendly investor who doesn’t take crap from anyone and thinks on her own.
Do you have any future plans for TaxiTreats and what is your ultimate dream accomplishment?
Our ultimate dream is to change how product companies interact and engage with consumers – in a digitally-savvy AND experiential way.