He’s not Bill Gates yet – or even Jimmy Pattison – but with two business startups by the age of 19, Garibaldi secondary grad Jack Gardner is headed down the same entrepreneurial road.
Gardner is one of the young businessmen behind a smartphone application that helps taxi passengers share a ride.
He also has a business that monitors the dust levels in sawmills, taking advantage of an opportunity created when Worksafe BC insisted on third-party monitoring of dust in mills which has caused explosions and fires in recent years.
Gardner is marketing the taxi app, Cab Share Canada, with two friends who developed the program.
Cab Share Canada started as an idea by Coquitlam student Shehan Wijeyagoonewardane, who attends school at the University of Western Ontario in London.
Wijeyagoonewardane noticed that traveling students were contacting one another on social media to share cabs, and that sparked the idea of making the task more efficient by using a dedicated cellphone app.
Users type in where they are, where they are going and other data. Then, an algorithm pairs them with other cab riders. They can chat on the app to arrange a meeting place, and the app also lists the five closest cab companies so the user can call one nearby.
The idea has gotten some press. Cab Share Canada is often described as being similar to the controversial Uber, but Gardner bristles at the comparison.
Both services are designed to save consumers money on their travel costs. However, while their app allows people to split a cab fare, with Uber “you or me can basically become a cab driver,” he said, by offering a ride in exchange for cash.
“We’re not even close to Uber.”
Vancouver cab companies don’t like the competition that Uber would bring, have lobbied against it, and the service has so far been banned in the province. That hasn’t been the experience for Gardner’s group.
Gardner said the new app helps people do something they already do – share a cab. Although cab companies might lose a few fares, there is an easy argument that more people will use cabs if it is made more affordable by cab sharing.
He had a friend who recently caught a cab from Port Coquitlam to the Vancouver International Airport, and the bill was $150. So obviously there could be significant savings by cutting that ride in half.
Detractors of Uber often cite safety concerns – you’re hitching a ride with someone you don’t know, who is not licensed in any way.
So safety is something that the young app developers of Cab Share Canada have put a lot of energy into. For one, people can specify the sex of the person they will share a cab with.
“So if you’re a girl who wants to ride with another girl, you can.”
The app also gives users safety advice, such as making sure they meet in a public place, and not telling their cab sharer where they will be going after they get dropped off.
The app is sold for free, and the developers expect to make their money by advertising. They will need thousands of people to download the app, to make the business a success. They have been accepted to receive $20,000 worth of online services, after applying to a program called Facebook Start that assists online business startups. They have an iOS version, but are still working on an Android version of the app.
They are getting the word out using Facebook, Bing and other online sites.
It’s starting slowly, but don’t have any competition, said Gardner.
He comes by his business acumen honestly.
His grandfather Dick Jones is an owner of the Teal-Jones Group, a forestry company based in Port Kells, and he went to work in a mill at the age of 11, first cleaning up the place, then piling shingles, sorting lumber on the green chain, and even doing a little payroll. It gave him an appreciation of the forestry business.
His future is in commerce.
“I want to own my own business, and hopefully become successful,” he said.
Gardner is in his second year of business studies at Douglas, and plans to transfer to a B.C. university for the final two years of his degree.
After grad, he will likely continue down one of the paths he has started, finding both forestry and the tech sectors interesting.
“I’m only 19, so I’ve got some time to figure it out.”