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Capable of speeds up to 25 mph, Skoop’s electric motor-assisted rickshaws are giving East Lansing an alternative means of transportation too foolish not to try — after all, it’s free.
Relying on ad sales for its rear mounted flat-screen TVs, Skoop is able to profit without charging riders a penny.
On its furthest scheduled route, Skoop can take riders from the Brody Complex to Hagadorn Road with complimentary phone chargers that allow riders to play their favorite music through mounted speakers in the breeze.
“All you have to do is flag us down and hop in,” said Josh Cooper, founder and CEO of Skoop and an advertising management sophomore at MSU. “We are taking the bicycle powered taxi and using it to provide a means to demonetize short distance travel.”
With two custom-built three-seater rickshaws in Skoop’s East Lansing fleet, Cooper said, Skoop averages 1,300 rides a month and expects this number to triple once undergrads arrive in the fall.
Cooper’s endeavor started last year as a freshman. “I was walking home late at night and thought it would be more beneficial to use a rideshare service or CATA,” he said. “When I was traveling at about 3 a.m., Uber was out of control: I wanted to go just short of a mile and the ride was well over $16."
“I thought this is ridiculous. We are on a campus here and every trip will be around mile or under. You can’t expect a college kid to spend $15 for an Uber every time.”
Starting to research cost-effective forms of transportation, he found the tuk tuk, or bicycle-powered rickshaw, interesting.
The challenge now was to make it work in East Lansing.
“How do you compete with an industry that was here well before you?” Cooper said. “The answer is to demonetize the ride and give people no reason to not do it.”
Investors were supportive back in his hometown in greater Detroit, and Skoop hit the streets of East Lansing in the summer.
Despite this, people still remain skeptical about Skoop. “People need to know we are not a transportation industry. We are an advertising company, a mobile billboard network. Then it all makes sense.”
The rear-mounted TVs are able to change their content on the fly.
“If you are a business owner in Texas and your business has a sale in East Lansing, I can have the advertisement on the screen in around 10 minutes,” Cooper said.
“If it’s a big network like ESPN, we can give people on the street a real time feed of a college game in Lansing.”
As an ad agency, Skoop provides graphic design and animation assistants for clients as well, said Cooper.
The only problem Skoop faced so far is having people hassle about who was first to flag down the cab, said Cooper. “The East Lansing Police Department has been friendly to us, and we are happy with how the city is receptive to this.”
Cooper said that although Skoop is profitable, too many companies let profit be their sole focus.
“Companies are designed to solve problems, and they need to be nurturing and have a social component,” said Cooper. “If the work you are doing isn’t making someone else’s life better, you are wasting your time” With plans of expansion to other Michigan college campuses in the works, Cooper said, Skoop will revolutionize short-distance travel for students.
“Let’s get people home from the bars and combat intoxicated driving. Let’s take on a transportation industry way bigger than us. Do I intend to make Uber go out of business, or shut down CATA? Of course not,” Cooper said.
“But I’m here to make a disruption on every single college campus.”
Class route 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Night route 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. www.rideskoop.com