Minnesota Local Startup Spotlight #16: DriveAlternatives



Drive Alternatives (DA) is a niche Minneapolis, MN based startup launched off the back of a booming industry: alternative fuel  driving solutions.  The company’s product is information and the service is on-demand delivery:  DA has compiled the largest alternative fuel station and carshare database within the US and will soon be delivering this information right to the handsets of smartphone users on-the-fly.

Maybe someday they’ll be porting the data right into the vehicle itself (1:14)?

The DA database currently includes around 10,000 nationwide listings for refueling/recharging stations including:  CNG (compressed natural gas), LPG (liquefied propane gas), Bio Diesel, Hydrogen, e85/Flex Fuel and electric.  They are also the the only website with a comprehensive listing of all the different “car share” programs in one place; there are around 20 different companies in all.

In it’s current phase, DA is targeted at alternative fuel drivers who need an up to date resource to find the most convenient place to refuel or recharge. According to Co Founder Kavi Turnbull, “The current market scope is pegged around 13 million combined alternative fuel vehicles on the road today.”

DA was conceived, co founded and created by two local entrepreneurs and former U of M students: Kavi Turnbull (CEO) & Ben Talberg (CTO). Since inception, they have since raised an initial round of capital (via WARF), leveraged the assistance of some U of M student interns and acquired a strategic board member: Ravi Kalla, CEO of Symphony Corp, a 350 person software services company located in Wisconsin.

Until now, the duo has been busy building the database, designing the website, and preparing for the launch of their iPhone application within the next month. The site/app is designed to foster User Generated Content-from reviews and updates to comments and pictures. Users can also receive coupons through the DA offer system, which as one can imagine, is an aspect of the DA monetization strategy. The company believes that they can maintain their critical mass of non-proprietary data by (a) being first to market in the space while maintaining that edge through crowdsourced participation  and (b) a strategic launch that’s aimed at at the “low hanging fruit”, that is, the federally mandated quota’s for alternative energy vehicles at the federal, state and utility provider level.  For example, Minnesota has a fleet of approx. 1200 flex fuel cars, the least of which 25% of are required to fill-up on e85.

Listen to our 20 minute chat with Kavi for more details…