Cape Town lads garner awards and international attention for their invention, but what they really want is investors back home

TWO CAPE TOWN-BASED lads recently returned from Silicon Valley with newfound inspiration after presenting their innovative public transport system to US business leaders.

and were among six winners of the 2008 Imagine Cup Innovation Accelerator Award, which pitted 100 000 of the world`s best student programmers from 100 countries against each other.

As part of their prize, they travelled to Microsoft`s Silicon Valley campus in California to explore how their solution could be turned into a business reality.

Their "Where is my transport" system is an application that allows bus commuters to plan routes and schedules using their cellphones. It uses SMS, mapping technology and a database to let consumers find out when the next taxi or bus will reach them (see it at


De Vries and King met at school at the age of six, and were at the same school together right until matriculating from Rondebosch Boys` High in 2003. They both went on to the University of Cape Town (UCT) to obtain their tertiary education. King explains that the idea for the solution was spawned by him missing a test one day due to the Jammi shuttle service - available for free to all UCT students - not arriving at its stop as scheduled.

"The idea then grew from simply improving student shuttle services, to improving the urban transport mix in SA as a whole. Especially with the 2010 Soccer World Cup just around the corner, there is a dire need for our software at all levels of transport," he says.

"The task we now face is to make the correct authorities aware of our products existence before further tax rands are spent trying to create it," adds De Vries.

Since their university graduation they have established their own development company, namely `WhereIsMyTransport`, the focus of which is to provide software infrastructures which can facilitate transport companies in their operations and to provide their commuters with real-time transport information.

All IP rights from the original MS Imagine Cup project have been assigned to the company, and the software is completing its second full peer-review process to ensure market readiness.

"We are now searching for the market opportunities locally, before taking up any of the numerous requests to bring our product overseas," says De Vries.

"Overseas scouts keeping an eye on us include the likes of Transport London, which met with us in Silicon Valley, and are looking for new innovations to boost their transport in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games," notes King.

Despite the economic crisis, they say, there was great excitement around their creation in Silicon Valley. "So much so that there was investment available, however the conditions thereof required that we move to the Valley. For now, this is not our focus, as we wish to bring this product to fruition in our home country, before taking it elsewhere. If however, we are unable to bring it to the attention of the necessary authorities we will be forced to eventually take the product abroad," indicates De Vries.


WhereIsMyTransport`s products include WhereIsMyBus, WhereIsMyShuttle, WhereIsMyTaxi, and WhereIsMyTrain. Each of these is a bundle of services unique to that transport type.

The products not only solve challenges and improve the processes of transport companies, but also offer their passengers value-added services through their mobile interface. These services range from providing basic schedules, to locating the closest transport vehicle or stop to the passenger, to sending predictive information on the arrival of their transport based on real-time data.

De Vries explains that their target market is twofold, as they are aiming to service both the transport provider as well as the commuter.

And, the revenue model is evolving as the product develops. It started off as a pure licensing model, but is now moving towards a pay-per-click model.

"There are scheduling platforms around the world, services which extract information from other systems to provide passengers with feeds, but no all encompassing system which is able to govern all aspects from the transport companies` operations to resolving the urban transport mix for commuters through direct access to the operators real-time information. This, as well as the fact that our services are predictive rather than based on static schedules, is what makes WhereIsMyTransports offering unique," De Vries and King say.

Tags: Innovation