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1 Million Cups with The Fleet and Chai-Me.com

1 Million Cups logo with mug and heaphones
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Two startups presented in front of a packed house at the Kauffman Foundation for the weekly 1 Million Cups event Wednesday morning. Representatives from The Fleet and Chai-Me.com spoke to the caffeinated crowd about who they are and what their startups do.

Steven House and Ari Crane kicked off the presentations this week with The Fleet. The duo and their team aim to connect drivers to their vehicles using a $25 Bluetooth device. They hope that, by using the device, drivers will be part of a network, or “fleet.”

“We connect drivers to their automobile and to the environment,” Crane said. “You are able to observe your vehicle’s real-time performance, maintain your car for optimal health, fix your ride in record time at a reduced cost…You are able to challenge others or compete in a series of challenges that are designed to enhance your vehicle’s driving ability. You’re rewarded from your challenge with wrenches or points. You are able to cash those in for…automotive rewards.”

House and Crane said the automotive rewards could potentially be used for a variety of things, like discounts on oil changes.

The system works by plugging the Bluetooth-enabled device into a car. The accompanying application will alert users to any potential issues with the vehicle, while also reading data to be used for various challenges. The duo plan to release a game to  work alongside the application that will incentivize better driving habits.

House says that the idea for the business came when his fiance’s car broke down.

“I had to go through a set of frustration and diagnosing,” House said. “(I was) trying to pull up relevant information because I know if I am going to take it into a mechanic it’s going to be a costly repair.”

House began coding an application that would help connect drivers and their cars in an attempt to stop issues before they escalate.

He paired up with Crane approximately six months ago, and Crane says they were able to find multiple revenue streams for the business and build up a team to help with the development. Currently they are preparing for a beta release of their product and hope to flood the Kansas City market with it.

The second presenter was Tim Sylvester with Chai-me.com. He was filling in for his girlfriend, Aisha Krishnan, who owns the Kansas City–based chai tea business. The company got started after Krishnan, an Indian immigrant, began receiving care packages from home. She would receive chai in the packages, but would quickly run out.

“It all started when Aisha came to the United States,” Sylvester said. “She’d get homesick, and her mom would send care packages with the family chai mix in it. All of her friends would come over and would just insist on having cups of chai. One day, I asked for a cup, and she said that she had just got some but was all out because her friends just demanded so much of it.”

Sylvester explained that after witnessing the demand he saw the potential to monetize the Indian chai.

“As an entrepreneur, I don’t see problems, I see opportunities,” Sylvester said. “I told her that she needed to open up a website and start selling it there. Within 30 minutes of posting it for the first time, she sold out her entire supply, and it all just snowballed from there.”

Sylvester explained that even though Krishnan’s business has had success, there have been challenges, which have been exacerbated due to her immigrant status

“She has to conform absolutely to the letter with all of the requirements with being an immigrant and make sure that she doesn’t get close to the line, much less step on it, because that would make huge problems for her,” Sylvester said. “Jumping through the hoops and making sure that all of the I’s are dotted and all the T’s are crossed is a big headache.”

Sylvester says that all of the current sales are online, but that with the help of the company’s Kickstarter campaign they hope to expand into retail.

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