Stevens Class of 2012 alumni Nick Catania and Ralph Mattiaccio have founded a company which provides an online service to travelers searching for the most convenient and affordable bus routes between cities.
NickelBus, currently in Beta version, is a one-stop-shop for inter-city bus travel, providing price comparison, automated routing and centralized ticketing for long-distance trips using multiple bus companies, if necessary. Simply put, NickelBus.com does for buses what Kayak.com does for flights. The NickelBus database includes thousands of bus prices, schedules and station locations in numerous cities across the nation, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Albany, N.Y., and Portsmouth, N.H.. In addition, they have created a travel blog interconnected with the search system to share travel opportunities with users and spotlight different attributes within cities.
“Our mission is to provide millions of people with new travel possibilities and unique trip opportunities,” Catania said. “Traveling is about the entire adventure – the bus ride is just part of it.”
Catania, President of NickelBus, and Mattiaccio, CEO, came up with the idea for an online bus aggregator during their senior year at Stevens, when they were looking to travel with their friends but couldn’t, because Google searches weren’t leading them to the travel solutions they were looking for.
“We realized that the bus travel possibilities are out there, but there is no central database – like the airline industry – to find the information, so it was up to us to build our own search service to help out fellow travelers,” said Catania.
This led them to pitch the idea of NickelBus to mock investors during the annual Elevator Pitch competition at the 2012 Stevens Innovation Expo.
“We enjoyed watching the Elevator Pitch competition for a number of years, and decided it was the perfect time to debut the idea and feel out the grounds for making a serious business commitment,” said Mattiaccio.
Although they didn’t win, Catania and Mattiaccio were encouraged by the Elevator Pitch experience. What’s more, it was there that they gained the interest of Travis Kahn, executive director of TechLaunch, NJ’s first business accelerator program. They applied to TechLaunch after graduation and were one of ten portfolio companies selected. Over a three month period, they received valuable training, support and 1-on-1 mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and industry experts. The program helped Catania and Mattiaccio refine their business, connect with professionals in the field, and network with investors. In fact, NickelBus has already received investment funds from TechLaunch, which includes sponsors from Jumpstart NJ, an angel network, and the NJ Economic Development Authority.
“We have learned an extraordinary amount of new business skills, and we feel very prepared and confident for the road ahead,” said Mattiaccio.
“Buses happen to be a very economical means of travel, and there is a huge market need for the NickelBus service.” Catania said. “The inter-city bus industry has been experiencing its fastest growth in more than 40 years, with the emergence of new ‘curbside pickup’ companies like Megabus and Boltbus that have fares starting for the first customer at $1. By centralizing this data, we are making NickelBus ‘Your #1 Bus Stop.’”
“Right now we are just scraping the surface with the technology we plan to build and expose,” said Mattiaccio. “The Beta launch is a huge step for us and it’s a fantastic accomplishment. As far as the future of the company, we have lots of great ideas to grow and move forward. For now, just like our company motto, ‘We’re all about the adventure!’ That’s what motivates us.”
Catania and Mattiaccio met during their first day of Stevens’ Pre-Orientation and have been great friends ever since. As students, the duo have worked together on a number projects, from websites to an electric car.
At Stevens, Catania earned a dual degree in Engineering Physics and Music & Technology. He also served as President of the Student Government Association and was on the winning Stevens team of the Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl.
Mattiaccio, who earned a degree in Computer Science, was involved in a Cybersecurity research project through the Stevens Scholars program. In his final year, he created an app with his senior design team and the National Weather Service, allowing lifeguards to track rip currents and collect data to aid researchers.
“We are so grateful for the numerous opportunities Stevens has offered us,” Catania said. “We never imagined ourselves taking on this type of venture before college, but Stevens motivates you and gives you the resources, in this tight-knit technological community, that are hard to find at many other institutions.”
“At Stevens, you’re required on a daily basis to overcome your challenges, and persevere to succeed – a good foundation for running a corporation,” Mattiaccio added. “The alumni before us serve as a great inspiration, and we aim to make our own path and successes just as they have.”
You can visit their newly-launched Beta site at www.NickelBus.com.