Montreal-based startupBusbud, the self-described Kayak for bus travel, has released their iPhone app and it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down anytime soon.
Figures pointed to bus travel as the fastest growing form of intercity travel by a comfortable margin in 2012. The industry isn’t getting any smaller, something CEO Louis-Philippe Maurice is acutely aware of.
“We have a jump start in this market for bus travel because we have the most geographically diverse data. That said there’s going to be a lot of players that are going to be interested in this space in 2013,” said Maurice. “It’s going to be a pretty heated space.”
Launched on the first of this month Busbud’s iPhone app seeks to make booking easier, aggregating over 10,000 bus routes from 4000 cities in 60 countries around the world. The worldwide bus travel companion offers a search tool allowing travelers to discover and plan their next bus trip.
A seasoned traveller, Maurice wrote up the business plan during one of fifty bus trips while travelling in South America. It also helped that he lived in five different cities in five years, enough time to grow tired of the frequent problems involving bus schedules and payment.
Upon returning from his travels he immediately contacted cofounders Michael Gradek, a Microsoft Bing veteran and Frederic Thouin, a PhD graduate in Computer Engineering from McGill.
“I told them, ‘Hey, I had all these problems travelling and it seems like a really concrete problem that we could solve’,” said Maurice.
Initially the biggest challenge for the team was creating a centralized standard format for schedules, transforming thousands of bus routes to a single platform. Now they posses the largest comprehensive data set for bus travel in the world.
They’ve also begun focusing their energies on ticket sales. One of their largest partnerships has been with Orleans Express, the Quebec bus transport giant that sells over two million tickets a year. Quebec residents frequently travelling between Montreal and Quebec City will be all too familiar with the regular $57 price tag for that route. Busbud is currently the only site on the web that offers the trip for $22 (not even Orleans themselves offers the deal).
The Orleans partnership came from a meeting between the team and then outgoing CEO Sylvain Langis, the man who founded the company over 25 years ago. The story goes that Maurice tried to explain their ideas for the bus industry during the presentation. He never finished slide two before Langis told him he wanted in. Since then Busbud has benefitted from a strong mentor and team member.
The team thinks that their app can be successful based on its schedules as well as future ticketing partnerships. But this is only possible due to the immense popularity of busses, both a budget-friendly and eco-friendly mode of travel.
“People like the bus already, we just want to make it simpler to search bus routes and book your tickets,” said Maurice.
The team has benefitted from $500,000 in angel investment and is now seeking to build up their business development and sales teams. As part of this push they’ll be visiting university campuses in Montreal over the next few weeks for a recruiting drive.
In the mean time Busbud’s everyday concern is to continually update their database.
“There’s so many more cities to cover and even in the cities that we have there’s so many more bus companies that we don’t know about,” said Maurice. “This morning we had an email from P.E.I and they wanted more support there. There’s so many places where the bus is present.”