When Tom Vazhekatt got his drivers license as a teenager, he found that his new freedom of mobility brought greater responsibilities—like running errands. And like many others, when he drove around town he wished there was a way to find the shortest route between every stop so he could get finished as soon as possible.
Then came last year. While working for the local nonprofit Trusted World—which helps deliver clothing, food, and other items to those in need—Vazhekatt found that it wasn’t just people who needed to get from place to place sooner. Businesses need to do this, too.
Now, in his third year of working on a computer science degree at UT Dallas, Vazhekatt is launching Routora—a route optimization tool that solves the problem of his teens while having implications for other individuals and businesses. And while still in beta mode, the company has already begun attracting users globally.
“We essentially create faster and more efficient routes on Google Maps by reordering the stops along your path,” Vazhekatt, Routora’s co-founder and CEO, told Dallas Innovates
Saving time and money on the road
From walking and biking to driving, Routora is a Google Maps extension tool that helps users find the best route when they have multiple stops. Users are able to put in their stops on Google Maps, but with the extension, instead of finding the best route from A to B then B to C, Routora checks all route combinations to find the most efficient one, saving travelers time and money.
“What we do is we check all the possible combinations of a given route and we see which one is the best, most optimum route where the order doesn’t matter,” Vazhekatt said. “By creating more efficient routes, not only are they saving money on gas, but they’re also emitting less carbon into the atmosphere.”
Vazhekatt added that because Routora is a Google Maps extension, it’s able to account for things like traffic conditions and road closures. That also allows the company to provide its tool in dozens of languages, something that has helped it attract around 3,000 users from 70 countries even while still in beta, Vazhekatt said.
“When it comes to those countries that that are maybe using Google Maps in Arabic or Hindi, they now have access to a route optimization software that is in their native language,” Vazhekatt said. “That’s a big advantage that we have because we work within Google Maps.”
From a bus driver in Kuwait to a carpool startup in Austin
Currently, Routora is focused on direct-to-consumer and B2B uses. On the individual side, Vazhekatt says he sees people using the app to help with finding the best route while running errands to helping them navigate a foreign city while on vacation.
For businesses, he sees uses in areas like logistics, delivery, and ridesharing. Already, Routora’s tool has been used by bus drivers in Kuwait to help optimize student pick-up routes. And with a public API, Routora has seen companies like Austin carpooling startup Tuktuk use it to test passenger pick-up optimization.
Already profitable thanks to paid ‘premium feature’
The company’s extension is currently free, but a paid “premium feature” allows users to add up to 25 stops—more than double the 10 stops that Google Maps currently allows—and has already helped Routora become profitable after forming earlier this year.
Eyeing its own app—and a pre-seed funding round
With eyes on developing its own app to coincide with the full launch of Routora in the near future, Vazhekatt said his three-person company hopes to leverage the entrepreneurial opportunities and network of UT Dallas to help raise a pre-seed funding round. That money will help the company develop the app, while aiding in marketing efforts.
“The impact, when it comes to spending less time on the road and less money on gas prices, has been huge. If the businesses that use us and the users that use us win, then we also win,” Vazhekatt said. “The goal I like to say is we want to save our users time, we want to save them money on gas, and we want to help them reduce their carbon footprint.”
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