Washington's hottest start-ups: TransitScreen

Entrepreneurship in Washington DC thrives off the aspiration to make a difference. Home to the highest echelons of policy-making in the US and worldwide, the city is bursting with talent and drive to make change that serves a public good. As part of this trend we caught up with TransitScreen, a start-up focused on improving transportation in cities across the world.

TransitScreen provides a real-time display of transportation options at your location. Whether you’re on your commute, heading out for a meeting or going out for dinner, TransitScreen has you covered. The screen contains all types of transport information available, and allows you to weigh up your quickest and cheapest options for getting from A to B. As well as local buses, trains and subways, the screens show Uber, Lyft, bikeshare, carshare, as well as company-specific information like employee shuttle systems.

We spoke to Ryan Croft, COO and co-founder of TransitScreen, to discuss the company’s latest developments and their experience as a start-up based in Washington DC.

Beginning life as a research project at the Mobility Lab in Arlington County, Virginia, TransitScreen took up the question of digitising paper bus schedules. Croft explains, “Matt [Caywood, co-founder of TransitScreen] and I met at a start-up event in DC and commercialised the project months later. Our mission is to improve city life through access to useful, local information. TransitScreen is for everyone, from the janitor on up to the CEO of a building.”

Their customers come from three main verticals: real estate, corporations and cities. In real estate, this involves TransitScreen functioning as a daily guide for residents in their building’s lobby. TransitScreen have also had their screens placed in the buildings of Fortune 500 corporations, “[they] use our technology to save employees time rather than waiting for their bus, train or shuttle,” Croft explains. TransitScreen is also already used in the city halls of Toronto, Seattle, Cambridge (MA) and Austin (TX).

With regard to their future client base, Croft sees great potential. “We are excited to bring our TransitScreen technology to new sectors - stadiums, street furniture, bars, grocery stores and coffee shops. We will have 10,000 locations live in 10 countries in 10 languages by early 2017.”

Due to demand from existing Fortune 500 clients in the US to expand overseas; as of last year, TransitScreen announced its expansion into Europe, and in particular London. “London is a fascinating city to us for a couple reasons. It’s 10million people, English speaking, with truly a world-class transport and wayfinding system” Croft says.

In addition to saving people time, environmental sustainability is also part of the their mission as a company. As urbanisation accelerates, transportation becomes increasingly important “our technology enables people to make smarter mobility choices and utilise sustainable options like walking, biking, or mass transit” Croft explains.

TransitScreen’s headquarters are at the 1776 Collaborative space in DC and before receiving investment they were a member organisation for almost two years, which has been a huge help to them as they started out in terms of the connections and exposure that it can provide. “The calibre of heads of state, foreign dignitaries and business leaders that pass through 1776 is remarkable,” Croft says. “From the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, to Queen Rania of Jordan to Marc Andreessen, you never know who will show up that day. My co-founder Matt got to pitch both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Turnbull.

“DC is one of the fastest growing tech hubs for a reason. Starting with Mayor Muriel Bowser on down, the city is embracing innovation and is open to testing new technologies. The city’s young, well-educated workforce provides the right ecosystem for successful tech company to thrive. We are proud to carry the #DCTech globally.”

The future looks bright for TransitScreen; as Croft himself says, “From Berlin to Boston, Denver to Dubai, transportation is a challenge that every city faces. Access to real time arrival information to compare multiple choices is the easiest way to improve urban mobility over night.”

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