Lithuanian startup TRAFI is announcing a seed funding round of $500,000 U.S. today, provided by Practica Capital. In addition to the funding, former Nokia Maps chief Sylvain Grande is joining the board, and the company hopes to pursue a strategy of aggressive expansion in key markets not well covered by leading players like Google.
TRAFI already reaches over 300,000 unique users monthly in its launch market in Lithuania, providing commuters and travelers there with journey planning that seamlessly combines public transit, taxi, bicycle routes and walking, offering suggestions as to which modes will be most convenient and most expedient given real-time traffic information.
I asked TRAFI co-founder and CEO Martynas Gudonavičius why his startup has a chance to excel in a market where there’s already a lot of activity, and recently a fair amount of consolidation through acquisitions by Apple and others. He said that TRAFI is targeting opportunity specifically left on the table by the transit directions players you already know.
“Citymapper, Hopstop and those guys only work with open data which is pretty easy,” he said in an interview. “We are going different, harder way and using not only open data, but also data which is very complex and harder to obtain, especially in cities in less developed, emerging markets. Google transit only uses their own defined data feed formats, and if particular city doesn’t have it – Google doesn’t cover it. We do.”
TRAFI also offers distinctive features, including an “interesting” route suggestion algorithm that plugs into Foursquare’s API to provide suggestions of potential places to stop along the way. But the real opportunity is to serve markets that are underserved at the moment, and that’s where TRAFI’s expansion plans will take them.
“Expansion will be very aggressive in 2013/2014 and mainly focused on emerging markets around the world and multi-million population cities for example Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Moscow, etc.,” he said. “There is definitely a huge opportunity to grow in this market, it’s actually under-invested, especially in emerging markets where open data is still very rare and Google/Apple are not really well established.”
Currently, TRAFI is available on the web and on Android, but it’s undergoing a redesign and the team hopes to unveil its new look soon, ahead of trying to achieve a more global footprint.