Gottlieb is CEO of a company called Interactive Taxi. It operates from an office currently stacked with EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) cards, circuit boards and chassis, in the Flatiron District of New York. He was preparing to respond to an RFP (request for proposal) from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission when I dropped in.
The city has mandated that the Big Apples 16,000 taxis be equipped with interactive, GPS (Global Positioning System)-based units. Deployment is expected sometime late this year, after the New York Taxi and Limousine Service reviews proposals.
The idea is to equip each cab with display units, designed to provide city and tourist information, taxi fares, rules, a GPS-based location system, and a credit card billing and reconciliation system that allows passengers to charge their fares.
Interactive Taxi did just that in a pilot project with the city in 2001. New York was poised to deploy units throughout the city when the World Trade Center attack occurred. The plan went on hold.
In the interim, Interactive Taxi took its technology to other cities. Today, 250 Interactive Taxis are cruising the streets of Boston. Chicago has 350 of them, and San Francisco plans to soon expand its fleet to more than 200.
Oh, did I mention advertising?
Thats not only what drives this business model, its the reason for its being.
Gottlieb was handling advertising sales at Viacom five years ago when four friends, who came up with the idea for Interactive Taxi, approached the company with it in search of funding. Viacom did not bite, but Gottlieb did.
He liked the idea so much that he joined the company and eventually moved to its helm. Interactive Taxi attracted venture capital funding, and the business was born.
It all stemmed from the frustration of one of the friends who, it seems, had been stuck in a taxi in New Yorks legendary gridlock. Thinking there should be something better to do with the time than sit there, he and his buddies came up with the idea of providing interactive backseat entertainment (no, not the kind in HBOs "Taxicab Confessions").