Companies can book multiple Uber rides for customers and clients via Teleport's new app.
When mobile app Teleport debuted in November, it was just a fun service that let you order an Uber ride to pick up a friend and drop them off at your location—to “teleport” them to you.
But today, nearly six months later, Teleport‘s team has expanded its ambitions. Although the original consumer app still lives on, the New York City-based startup is now focused on a version of its service for other businesses, dubbed “Dashboard.”
It lets business customers like hotels and elderly care services book Uber rides for their own clients for a $2-per-ride flat fee in addition to the cost of the ride itself. The biggest selling point is that it lets users simultaneously book multiple rides at the same time, such as for hotel guests who need to get to or from the airport or to a business meeting.
Business can bill customers whatever price they want, including at a profit, Teleport CEO Bob Wu told Fortune. “This will be a great revenue generator for companies,” he explained.
So far, Wu says that roughly 25 businesses have used Teleport’s business-focused service, which is currently available on the web and soon as an iOS app.
Both of Teleport’s services are built using a data feed from Uber that outside software developers can incorporate into their own apps. Uber first introduced the software tools to access the feed in 2014, and has since both actively partnered with big brands like United Airlines and OpenTable while letting smaller developers use its tools on their own.
“We didn’t realize that we were one of the first companies to build on top of Uber’s API,” said Wu, using the industry lingo for the software tools required for accessing Uber’s data.
According to Chris Saad, the Uber employee who leads the team responsible for providing outside developers with data, Teleport was among the first wave of “self-serve” outside companies to sign on. When Uber first introduced its shiny new tool, it showed off partnerships with companies like OpenTable, Starbucks, Hyatt, United Airlines, and TripAdvisor.
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“We started as a company that wanted to help people develop deeper relationships with the people they care about,” said Wu about his team’s initial goal before settling on Teleport’s ride-booking idea.
Inspired by the work of British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, best known for the idea that people have real relationships with only up to 150 people and that relationships are best nurtured by face-to-face interactions, Wu and his team looked for a service that would do just that. Ferrying a friend to come hang out, via Uber ride, is what they came up with.
Although Uber’s rival, Lyft, recently opened the gates to its own software tool for third-party developers, Wu says that Teleport is currently exclusively focused on Uber’s. That’s largely because the two ride-hailing companies prohibit outside developers from building apps that use their competitors’ data and tools at the same time, he says.
What’s interesting about Teleport’s use of Uber for its business-focused Dashboard service is that it’s an example of something that Uber could create itself for business customers.
Since 2014, the company has offered Uber for Business, which lets companies pay for employee travel including through allotted credits and by making it easier to file expenses for Uber rides through popular expense software providers like Concur and Expensify. Considering the rapid adoption of ride-hailing services like Uber among business travelers, it wouldn’t be surprising if Uber continued to expand its business-oriented service.
With that said, Saad emphasized that Uber didn’t develop its program for third-party developers to identify popular ideas and then steal them.
“I would never want to represent this as some kind of idea factory,” he said. “It’s not how we think about it or talk about it.”
But Saad also acknowledged that Uber may sometime introduce features that are similar to those built by outside developers. Trip Experiences, for example, which let companies serve up content like news digests, short videos, or restaurant reviews to riders during their trips, was inspired by apps Saad’s team saw others build. Uber eventually released Trip Experiences to make it easier for third-parties to provide content for riders.
Saad’s team is also responsible for other similar tools, like one for UberRush, its delivery service for merchants. There’s also a button for requesting rides through outside apps and a similar tool dubbed the Ride Request Widget, which he says have been hugely popular among outside developers. The latter two, which only differ in the features included automatically, provide an easy way for users of outside apps to request an Uber ride without leaving those apps.
Users of a restaurant app, for example, could book a ride after making a dinner reservation without having to switch to Uber’s app.
Another partnership by Uber through its third-party developer service is with Amazon’s Echo, Amazon’s voice activated assistant that can help people with ordering household items like laundry detergent or play music. All they have to do is speak out loud to the Echo. In February, the companies announced that the Echo could now be set up to book an Uber ride through a simple voice command.
Although its ride-hailing app is already widely used in the U.S. and in other countries, getting incorporated into the apps of other companies would help Uber stretch its reach—and its revenue.