This new startup promises Uber and Lyft drivers even more money

by Tessa McLean
June 10, 2015


Uber drivers in LA are about to start making a lot more money. 
Minneapolis-based Viewswagen launched last week, allowing ridesharing drivers to increase their hourly rate by about $3 or 25 percent on average with their in-car advertising model. 
"This has been happening for years in taxis,” founder James Bellefeuille said. “Advertising in Ubers is the next natural step for ridesharing services.”
Bellefeuille is a former Uber driver himself and started to form the vision for his company after a particularly successful New Year's Eve driving in Chicago. He saw an opportunity to increase his income, as well as provide recommendations to his customers, who always seemed to be asking for them. Ironically, the City of Chicago is one of the few markets Viewswagen won’t extend to yet, as regulations prohibit it. 
The process for drivers to get started is simple. Drivers must purchase a tablet and download the app, Vugo, in the app store. Once they’ve attached the tablet to the seat of their car, drivers put their passenger’s route into the app and it serves those customers targeted ads based an algorithm that takes into account things like route and time of day. 
Say you’re headed home from work in an UberX. Chances are it’s around 5 p.m. and you’re starting to think about what you’re going to eat for dinner. Advertisers know that, and you’re likely to be served ads for local food establishments or nationwide food delivery services. 
Bellefeuille likens the relationship with marketers to the Google AdWords platform. Individual publishers are able to set up targeted online campaigns and Viewswagen splits the revenue 
with the driver based on impression rate. He said the standard is about 60 percent for the driver.
Vugo also completed its seed round this week, raising $250,000. The funds will be used to scale the business, grow the advertiser network, and increase driver adoption. The round was led by Ben Nash founder of PCS Wireless, David Schottenstein of Viewabill, as well as Zalmi Duchman who founded the Fresh Diet.
Bellefeuille declined to name advertisers who have already bought into the product, but said most are national and, unsurprisingly, tech-focused. He said once the network is better established, he sees the platform as an ideal spot for local businesses and national content-producers like artists and musicians. Users can submit content for free to be approved by the Viewswagen team. If they believe it’s quality, it will be hosted for free. Then, there’s a downvote/upvote model of determining the popularity and shelf-life of that content. 
While the app is designed for ridesharing services, the service can be used in taxis, and Bellefeuille said they have several taxi providers signed up in cities across the nation. Currently, over 25 percent of Vugo users are in California, with the most drivers being located in the Los Angeles area.
“We’re not betting on Uber” Bellefeuille said. “We’re betting on the tech industry. We call ourselves platform independent — everyone from limo drivers to airport shuttles to cabs have all signed up.”
With over 1200 drivers on the platform, Bellefeuille hopes to become the leader in this new industry. 
“Our goal within the next 12 months is to be the largest in-vehicle advertiser in America.”
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