• Saturday, April 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nigerian entrepreneur showing the way in New York

businessday-icon

Ikechukwu Eze

You cannot miss your way in New York City with hopstop.com. The dot.com company, founded and run by Chinedu Echeruo, a Harvard-trained Nigerian entrepreneur, has emerged a leading online city transit guide of choice in the cosmopolitan city.

California might be the home of dot.com in the United States, but New York is one city in that country where the application of dot.com creations is

most apparent. This is rarely surprising. New York is the financial and media capital of US, the world’s biggest economy, and home of some of America’s leading corporations.

Hopstop.com enables you to navigate this complex and lively city without feeling like a Johny-just-come (JJC). It provides door-to-door subway and bus directions and maps for New York City and several other cities in the US, UK and France. You can find your way around cities like Boston, Chicago, Paris, San Francisco and London, using hopstop.com.

Users can get easy-to-understand transit and walking directions from their locations to their desired destination. The information on the platform makes it easy for visitors and city dwellers to find subway and bus stops near an address. Users can also locate restaurants, hotels, shopping centres, and tourists’ destinations using hopstop.com.

Hopstop.com also allows users to save directions and use them later when they need them. It has taxi-fare estimator that enables users to have a fair idea of how much their trip around could cost. For a visitor working with a well-trimmed budget, this could prove very helpful. The directions are detailed, which is very helpful when you are riding an unfamiliar bus line. All the features available on hopstop.com can be accessed on your blackberry, PDA, iPhone and other SMS enabled cell phones.

There are a lot of direction services in the United States: MapQuest, Yahoo! and a voice recognition company called Dial Directions that enables you request directions over the phone, but Hopstop is unique in being transit-focused. According to VentureBeat, an online publication with focus on information technology (IT) and innovation, the entrance of Hopstop has proved that there’s room in the directions market for smart and innovative startups.

In many ways, Chinedu, who holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, is a young man who knows what he wants and from the patronage that his company commands from first time visitors to New York and city dwellers, he is very much on his way to joining the league of successful IT entrepreneurs like Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg founders of Google and Facebook respectively.

Before taking the leap into the world of entrepreneurship, Chinedu, worked as investment analyst for banks and hedge fund companies in the United States. Sree, a lecturer on new media at the Columbia University, describes Chinedu as ‘one of the very innovative and enterprising Nigerians in New York’. Sree is convinced hopstop.com Inc, has huge prospects for the future.

In 2008, Hopstop raised an undisclosed round of equity financing from investors including Quigo Technologies co-founder Yaron Galai. Asked why he thought Hopstop is a good investment, Galai said the aspect of direction services that the company focuses on, is one area where Google does not have the best solution. “The Google folks have a passion for cool algorithms, but no passion whatsoever for local transit,” he said.

Google’s algorithms can provide some wacky results, Galai said. Hopstop, on the other hand, is much more focused on transit and on human behavior. For example, he compared Google directions with Hopstop directions from his home to his office, both in New York. Google’s directions involved ferry, light rail, two trains and a walk through New Jersey. Hopstop, on the other hand, directed him to a single subway line. Speaking on his motivation, Chinedu said: “Every entrepreneur starts off thinking ‘what’s the problem I can fix.

The problem for me was how to get from Point A to Point B in New York.” If the amount of visits hopstop.com gets every month is anything to go by, then Chinedu is truly meeting the need that drove him into business. •Contributed by Godwin Nnanna