Tags: O’Sullivan | Carma | MapInfo | ridesharing

Carma Carpooling With Tech's Sean O'Sullivan

Image: Carma Carpooling With Tech's Sean O'Sullivan
Tech Entrepreneur and Humanitarian, Sean O'Sullivan.

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Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 11:58 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Merely listing everything that entrepreneur/humanitarian Sean O’Sullivan has done would take several blog postings.
 
O’Sullivan has powered up many technology companies and organizations. While earning an electrical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic, he and three other students founded Navigational Technologies Incorporated, later called MapInfo, a $200 million software and services provider of computerized mapping or “location intelligence” solutions. Pitney Bowes acquired it in 2007.
 
After seven years as MapInfo’s president, O’Sullivan left to start a New York rock band called Janet Speaks French. He earned a master’s degree in film production and created some independent films. In 1993 he founded SOSventures, a venture capital firm that has invested in more than 60 companies, such as Harmonix, which itself later spawned the popular virtual guitar video game Guitar Hero and the awesomely successful Netflix.
 
In 1996, O'Sullivan's first Internet company, NetCentric, provided “software for inside the Internet.” Compaq Computer's George Favaloro invested $5 million in it. During this time O’Sullivan and Favaloro coined the term “cloud computing;” NetCentric trademarked the term in 1997, allowing it to expire by 1999.
 
The charitable O’Sullivan has funded the Khan Academy, CoderDojo programming education centers and the MATHletes Challenge with 20,000 euros in prizes.
 
In 2003 O’Sullivan founded both the O’Sullivan Foundation and the humanitarian organization JumpStart International, to empower Iraqis through employment projects. While in Iraq he met his future wife, a foreign news correspondent and Irish citizen, Tish Durkin. They now live in Kinsale, Ireland, with their two children.
 
In 2007, O’Sullivan founded Avego in Ireland. Called Carma since 2013, it offers real-time smartphone apps that efficiently match commuters with unused seats in cars and vans — the epitome of “the shared economy.”
 
Grigonis: You’re currently running the carpooling service company Carma?
 
O’Sullivan: I do two things right now. I run SOSVentures, but I spend most of my time on "shared economy" stuff such as Carma. What it promotes was called "real-time ridesharing," but there are neo-taxi services out there such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, who are pretty successful in owning the term "ridesharing" via media coverage, so we at Carma now call what we do "real-time carpooling."
 
We enable neighbors to share the commute. We’re establishing it neighborhood-by-neighborhood, to get a scalable, serviceable community of users, and good quality of experience in a few geographical areas, then scaling it up from there. In particular we are working in Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Bergen, Norway; Cork, Ireland, and other areas where we can develop a critical mass of users.
 
Grigonis: Any complaints from local taxicab companies?
 
O’Sullivan: If it hadn’t been for the neo-taxi companies — which are essentially taxicab companies dressed up with very good apps — I think that we would be running into opposition from the real taxicab companies. Instead, because the cab companies know the difference between real ridesharing like what we do, and the on-demand car services, well, the taxicab companies are actually our partners in a way. They are really rallying for us, stating that, "Now, what Carma does, that is genuine ridesharing! What those other guys do is something else."

The state of California calls them "transportation network companies." We provide a clear differentiation as to what ridesharing is really about.
 
A cab company must charge a few dollars a mile — that’s what the Ubers, Lyfts, and Sidecars do too, because you have to pay wages and be at the beck-and-call of people.
 
But when you’re just sharing a ride to the same area, you don’t have to detour and so you can just share costs. The economics thus change completely and it becomes very attractive.
 
I take Carma into work myself every weekday. People who use Carma more than a few times tend to get addicted to it because it supports a much higher quality of life where you don’t have to drive all the time. When you use the app, you spend a half an hour with one or more human beings in the same car. By sharing time with somebody else, you don’t feel that time is as wasted as when you’re sitting alone in your car stuck in traffic. There’s no more social an activity you can do with an app than actually physically meet up with people.
 
With Carma, commuting is no longer downtime, but a quite nice social activity.
 
Grigonis: It sounds like a sort of a super-networking, physical embodiment of social media.
 
O’Sullivan: It’s a physical way of socially getting together with people on the way to work. One of our top marketing people calls it "the most social app that exists." It changes your life and opens up new opportunities for those who use it.
 
There remains getting it all to really scale rapidly. We’re growing at 20 percent a month. That’s pretty good, but we’d like to grow faster. We look admiringly at WhatsApp and companies that can quickly scale to millions of people. But we also recognize that the problems they solve are simpler than coordinating schedules between people physically located in different neighborhoods and work areas at different times of day, not to mention the change in behavior, the change in lifestyle, it brings about. It’s not just yet another way of sending a text message.
 
Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis Click Here Now.
 
 
 

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Merely listing everything that entrepreneur/humanitarian Sean O’Sullivan has done would take several blog postings. O’Sullivan has powered-up many technology companies and organizations.
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Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 11:58 AM
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