New York City taxis are getting 10 inches of added leg room, so why not throw a condom vending machine in there?
That’s the idea behind TaxiTreats, a startup that just raised $1 million to install vending machines in cabs selling anything from peanuts to prophylactics.
TaxiTreats founder Brian Shimmerlik told The Huffington Post that he expects the company to start offering its taxi product to the city’s cabbies this summer.
“Our goal is to provide people with things they want, when they want them, right where they are,” said Shimmerlik, adding that the product, called Vengo, will focus on selling “convenience” items like gum, hand sanitizer and even condoms.
The wall-mounted machine -- which features a touch screen and a credit card-only payment system -- debuted on Monday at a pub in Manhattan and is being released in other New York bars and restaurants ahead of its planned launch inside taxes.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year unveiled NYC’s “Taxi of Tomorrow,” according to a Bloomberg News report. The Nissan NV200 features 10 more inches of legroom than the traditional Crown Victoria, and would make it easier to hold three adults -- and, Shimmerlik recalled thinking, a vending machine.
The company is yet to receive approval from the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). “While this isn’t something that’s currently under consideration here, this is clearly an imaginative product, and we congratulate them on the progress they’ve made," TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg told HuffPost.
After bumping up against regulatory snarls in New York, Uber, a smartphone app for hailing taxis, convinced the city in December to allow the product for a one-year trial period, which is a good sign for Shimmerlik and other entrepreneurs trying to build technologies on top of the city’s taxi-system.
For its part, TaxiTreats received an early nod of approval from the city last year, winning a $17,500 grant from the NYC Economic Development Corporation in its Next Idea Competition. During the company’s pitch to judges, Shimmerlik estimated that back-of-cab purchases could generate over one million dollars in tax revenue for the city and additional cash for fleet owners.
The firm is backed by several Silicon Alley heavyweights, including BoxGroup founder David Tisch and VaynerMedia founder Gary Vaynerchuck.
Shimmerlik, who is completing an MBA at the New York University Stern School of Business, said his team of 12 includes several aerospace engineers who are finalizing the company’s taxi product.
“It’s a daunting task,” said Shimmerlik, who had no previous vending experience before launching TaxiTreats. “We’re not only updating the traditional vending machine, we’re trying to put it in a moving vehicle.”