It’s common for startups to pitch their idea as the “Uber of XYZ.”
While the idiom makes it easy for others to envision what a startup is looking to build, few are actually changing the transportation industry itself.
CharterUP is an extension of Harris’s previous entrepreneurial endeavors. Harris has been in the transportation industry since he was a teenager, and he ultimately helped build his family’s taxi company into a hybrid limo/bus company.
But it was clear to Harris that the industry was missing key user experience components for both consumers and drivers.
“As we gained transactional experience and started transacting at scale, and I raised expectations and targets in my head, the vision of CharterUP really began to form,” Harris told Hypepotamus.
The result was CharterUP’s marketplace, designed to bring consumers real-time data on shuttle and bus services while giving bus drivers the ability to promote their services.
Bus drivers who wish to sign up are fully vetted before bringing on their fleet. Users can search for buses and shuttles based on their exact specifications, whether it is driver rating, price, or health/safety protocols. All rides are tracked, making it easier to control and plan out route schedules.
Over 1,000 bus companies are currently on the platform, which operates in over 50 cities.
CharterUP is what Harris describes as an ‘Expedia-meets-Uber’ marketplace. From its headquarters in Atlanta, Harris says the team has expanded to include co-workers based out of Boston, New York, Texas, and even a few internationally.
CharterUP’s platform is designed to reach a wide variety of customer segments that rely on shuttles or charters to move large groups of people. Of course, the pains of building a transportation-specific marketplace in 2020 are not lost on Harris. While there was a “drastic demand shock in travel” earlier in 2020, CharterUP has already started to see travel expectations and trends showcase unique resiliency in the charter and shuttle industries.
To adhere to COVID-related guidelines, CharterUP has reimagined how companies can use private bus shuttles to safely get employees to work.
Earlier this month CharterUP landed the eighth spot on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list, making it the 2nd Atlanta-based company to make it in the top 10 spots this year.
The accolade, Harris believes, showcases how the team has been able to build a culture of hard work, resourcefulness, and innovation. To date, CharterUP has focused on a customer-based revenue model that helps bring the right drivers to customers. “The best businesses, in my opinion, are customer-funded businesses.”
Whether building a startup from scratch or working to ensure a business stays viable during the uncertainties brought about by 2020, Harris has used his entrepreneurial roots to keep CharterUP on a path towards continued growth. His advice to young entrepreneurs: “I think the most important thing for anyone who is an entrepreneur or wants to start a company is that you really have to be in a place mentally where you understand the risk of failing, and you are willing to go all-in without a safety net.”