New CEO at HopStop Pushes for Fast Growth

HopStop, which provides public transit routing and schedules, plus walking directions, has brought in new leadership and expects to pursue rapid growth to 200 cities. It is currently in seven markets (or eight, if you count Long Island as a separate market).

New CEO Joe Meyer, a former Quigo and eBay executive, was brought in by HopStop’s investors, which include top leaders from Quigo, a contextual search engine sold to AOL in late 2007 for $340 Million. The former Quigo execs and others came in during a funding round one year ago.The previous CEO, founder Chinedu Echeruo, is starting an African hedge fund.

Meyer notes that the service has grown year-over-year since its launch in 2005, and is “dangerously close” to profitability via several revenue streams, including contextual text ads, and direct and indirect sales of display ads. People using mass transit are good targets for “going out” services, such as personals or event ads, he says.

The service is also making increasing revenues by licensing its API. For instance, Duane Reade drug stores uses its API in the Northeast.

For a user, HopStop has been a mixed bag. Its execution has been spotty as well, as transit routing information hasn’t always been reconciled. The site has seemed unmaintained for months at a time. There have been startup issues, generally, in working with transit authorities, some of which were initially resistant to a third party site.

But Meyer says the site is over any hiccups it may have had, and currently providing excellent quality service; it has a clean new redesign; and that the brand recognition for local users in New York and other places is strong enough that people have even begun to say they’ll “HopStop” it when they are seeking transit directions (i.e. to “Google” it or “Mapquest” it).

Meyer says the service also competes well with Google Transit, which has more cities but less depth, says Meyer. And it is very focused on B2C, while other services, such as Urban Mapping, are more oriented on B2B, he says.

“It is a very utilitarian service that gets users from ‘point a’ to ‘point b’ via walking and mass transit directions, he says. “We’re very unique in what we do. We’re aggregating together a seamless user experience.”

While HopStop does well as a destination site, Meyer says it also is very complementary to local media partners. Companies such as CitySearch, Yelp, OpenTable, Yellowpages.com and Fandango would be natural partners, along with newspaper sites such as The New York Daily News and The New York Times. The site currently works with The New York Post, The Village Voice, Intuit’s Boorah and others. “We’re national in scope and local in nature,” he says.

Looking forward, Meyer has set a course for a very aggressive growth plan. The site is currently in New York (and Long Island), Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, London and Paris. In August, it launches in Philadelphia; In September, it launches in Los Angeles; and in October, it launches in Atlanta. “We’ll have over 200 cities” when the build out is finished, he says.

The key to launching in a new city is not whether they are primarily mass transit-oriented, Meyer adds. It is whether a lot of people use mass transit. Car-obsessed Los Angeles is actually a “Top 5” mass transit city, he points out. Atlanta is in the top 10. The site also provides intra-city information for Amtrak and various bus lines. “We put people in the seat of mass transit,” he says.

Mobile also plays a major role in HopStop’s development. “We are continually improving and enhancing the user experience,” says Meyer. “We’re the perfect mobile app.” Platforms include iPhones, a WAP site and SMS. Also in development is a Blackberry app.

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