Since 2007, Sean O’Sullivan’s SOSventures has been investing in Carma (formerly Avego) to promote carpooling in various markets throughout the world. Now, the firm is looking to invest in the developer community as a way to help make real-time ride-sharing happen, through the release of an API and a whopping $2.5 million in prize money to developers who use the API to drive carpooling adoption.
Carma provides a platform and mobile app that is designed to help users find nearby commuters that they can share rides with. It’s not a new idea, but the folks at Carma want to set themselves apart from a new breed of so-called “ride-sharing” startups that provide a way for users to find rides in an on-demand fashion.
There are a growing number of transportation apps like Uber, Lyft, and SideCar which connect passengers with drivers who aren’t professionally licensed to drive taxis or livery vehicles. But Carma isn’t one of those services. Instead it seeks to connect passengers in a way that allows them to share the costs of a ride between them.
Using GPS tracking and matching, the app allows users to share the cost of a ride, which ends up being a fraction of what and Uber or Lyft would cost. There’s just one problem — getting the critical mass of users needed to make the service viable.
While Carma isn’t purely “on demand,” the company is trying to make carpooling happen in “real-time.” That’s what the new open API and prize money are all about — it hopes to seed the growth in carpooling by making the service available to more users across more apps.
The API offers access to a number of Carma feature, such as the ability to register, update, and search for users through their apps. Developers can also use the API to facilitate user-to-user messaging and the ability for driver to receive compensation for the ride.
The new prize offering has three different components:
- There’s a $1 million prize for the first third-party developer to build an app that results in more than 10,000 daily trips over a 90-day period
- There’s a $1 million bounty for the first developer on Carma payroll to create a feature that results in 1,000 daily trips in any metro area that it operates. (It’s also hiring, and the prize is open to new employees as well.)
- And there’s $500,000 up for grabs to be distributed to up to 10 development teams that would like to join the Carma Accelerator at the company’s headquarters in Cork, Ireland. That accelerator will be run like other SOSventures accelerators, which include Haxlr8r and Leap Axlr8r.