Written By Frank M. Lin 1/11/2017 9:31 am @ Union City, California – This guy is freaking awesome. And he just happens to be a black man. He is very eloquent and articulate based on the video interview I saw of him. His idea about why he created gigameet.com is excellent. I think it will make an impact in the future!
This photo is from a difference source but whatever… just wanted to show his picture.
The techpreneur set out to bring products to market that solve problems and make a profit.
Small Business Awards Hall of Fame: 5 Winning Business Principles from Billionaire Techpreneur
How HopStop Chinedu Echeruo sold his company and made $1 billion
Ten years ago Chinedu Echeruo (pronounced CHIN-ay-do Ah-CHE-row) was a hedge fund manager and frustrated New York City resident lost in a vast bus and subway system. His desire to fix the dilemma of figuring out how to get from point A to point B using public transit led to the invention of HopStop.com, a pedestrian navigation service that helps people get door-to-door directions or find nearby subway stations, bus stops, taxi service providers, and car rental places.
Launched in 2005, New York-based HopStop distinguished itself as a perennial innovator in the burgeoning location-based service market with not only its popular online and mobile Websites, but also its industry-leading mobile applications for both iOS and Android. The apps cover more than 300 cities throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the United Kingdom.
In 2007, Black Enterprise presented HopStop with the Small Business Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes companies that have set trends and broken new ground in a particular industry. HopStop grew 250% in three years, from $574,268 in revenue for 2007 to $2 million in 2010 and an estimated $5 million in 2012.
In a historic move, HopStop was sold to Apple Inc., for what some analysts estimate to be $1 billion (Echeruo is not at liberty to reveal details of the acquisition due to a non-disclosure agreement). HopStops’s acquisition by Apple helps to bolster the hardware company’s software mapping tools. There is not doubt that Apple paid a large sum for HopStop, says Jim Thatcher, a researcher who specializes in mobile mapping technology at Clark University in Worchester, Massachusetts. “There is a gold rush for mapping apps like it.”
Jumping Into The Online Startup Game
As a child growing up in eastern Nigeria, Echeruo always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He attended Kings College in Lagos and Syracuse University and Harvard Business School in the U.S. After working several years in the Mergers & Acquisitions and Leveraged Finance groups of JPMorgan Chase, and later at the hedge fund AM Investment Partners, he founded two Internet-based companies, HopStop.com and Tripology.com (a lead-generation and travel referral business for the travel industry), for which he raised nearly $8 million from private investors. In 2010, he sold Tripology.com to the travel and navigation information company Rand McNally for an undisclosed amount. Tripology is now owned by USA Today.
The 42-year old innovative businessman accomplished what he set out to do, which was to bring products and services to market that solve problems and make a profit for the founding entrepreneur, investors, and shareholders.
With the sale of HopStop, Echeruo returned to his native Nigeria where he is a principal at Constant Capital Partners Ltd., a boutique investment bank and personal investment company in West Africa. His main focus is making Africa the next global economic frontier. “I am excited to be part of the change in culture and economy of Africa right now.”
The Techpreneur’s continuous drive towards innovation is what sets him apart as a Black Enterprise Small Business Awards Hall of Famer. When he founded his companies, Echeruo didn’t focus on selling his companies, but concentrated rather on product and market opportunities.
Check out five business principles he shares and how he built a digital company with staying power worth a cool billion.
He Answered a Need. Before HopStop, most people navigated their way by relying on websites that provide driving directions, but that approach was ineffective in cities like New York that have extensive public transportation systems, says Echeruo. “HopStop was a venture that had promise in terms of usage and need.” He began by researching the transit system and figuring out how to collect all the information in a manageable way. “I was translating the problems directly to software developers,” he adds. HopStop is really good at integrating routes. What HopStop had is what Apple didn’t—local transportation systems.
He Figured Out the Proper Model. Before HopStop and Tripology, Echeruo had several startup ideas that never panned out because “the business models just didn’t work.” But HopStop was based on a hyper-local advertising business model. “We could target very specific customers, down to the street level.” Enabling advertisers to reach hyper-local, geo-targeted audiences at scale is what made HopStop appealing, giving Apple access to technology that allows it to service advertisers and generate revenues.
He Evolved With His Customers. “Focus in on the customer. Know what they need and how their needs are evolving over time. Adjust the product and make sure the customer is always happy,” says Echeruo. One such evolution is HopStop Live, introduced in April, which provides real-time transit information using a crowdsourced service. Worldwide users contribute and receive current info that is helpful when unforeseen incidents cause transit disruptions.
He Checked His Ego at the Door. Even before Echeruo sold his tech companies, he stepped down as CEO of Tripology in 2008 and HopStop in 2009. He brought in CEOs that had expertise in growth and operations. For HopStop that person was Joe Meyer, former vice president and general manager of AOL’s Quigo Technologies. Echeruo became aware that his “passion and core competencies—to create companies and solve problems—were no longer in sync” with the needs of the enterprises he’d founded. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to keep clinging to power, but he says, know when to step aside.
He Didn’t Focus On a Big Payday. Avoid being seduced by the idea that you should create a startup with the express intent of selling it quickly. Echeruo says. Also partner with other businesses to help evolve the product and to grow the company. While HopStop was willing to take into consideration offers from companies that were a good strategic operational fit, it wasn’t focusing on a sale but on developing mobile applications and opening these up to more mobile platforms. For instance, its partnership with TCS (TeleCommunications Systems Inc.) in 2012 allowed its technology to be put in multiple carrier cell phones.
-Reporting by F. Romall Smalls
Entries for the Black Enterprise Small Business Awards are open for a multitude of categories diversifying fields and demographics, like the Techpreneur of the Year award, given to a company that is delivering groundbreaking tech products or is thriving in the digital world. The Family Business of the Year award, spotlights successes made by relatives combining family force. Business minded young people under 19 can apply for the Teenpreneur of the Year award. And Franchise Company of the Year award is presented to a franchise owner who demonstrates outstanding performance and is a leader in the industry. A new category added this year is the Community Pillar of the Year Award, which goes to an entrepreneur whose company’s products or services has enriched people’s lives and who is committed to building both his or her brand and community.
The deadline to enter Black Enterprise’s Small Business Awards is March 31, 2015.
The 2015 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by Nationwide, May 13-16, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Be sure to enter our Elevator Pitch Competition to qualify for the $10,000 grand prize. To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/es/. Join us at the Entrepreneurs Summit, Where Innovation and Capital Meet.