Local startup books a reservation in Silicon Valley

Matt Donlon, co-owner, and Trish Fitzpatrick, VP of corporate outreach

Matt Donlon, co-owner, and Trish Fitzpatrick, VP of corporate outreach

An Uber-inspired local startup is headed west thanks to its victory last week at Richmond’s newest startup competition.

Uzurv, a Richmond-based ride reservation app that’s designed to complement services like Uber and Lyft, was named the winner of a pitch contest hosted by the local chapter of Aging2.0.

Uzurv beat out eight other companies that pitched in a classroom at Genworth Financial’s offices at 6620 W. Broad St., earning a spot at Aging2.0’s Global Startup Search in October in San Francisco, plus some money for travel. The competition is for companies developing goods and services for the aging population. The grand prize of the competition is $2,500.

Uzurv (YOO’-zerv) lets users of on-demand ride apps Uber and Lyft reserve rides ahead of time and to choose their own driver. The venture was founded Matt Donlon, Harold Frans, Bill Potvin and another partner.

Trish Fitzpatrick, vice president of corporate outreach for Uzurv, presented on behalf of her company. She said going on to San Francisco will be a good way to spread the word about Uzurv, which is still in its testing phase but is available in Apple’s app store.

“This is a really great opportunity to get publicity globally,” she said.

Attendees at last week’s event were allowed to question each company and vote for their favorite idea. The people’s choice award went to Handizap, a company that provides products to people with disabilities. There were two university teams that participated in the competition from Lynchburg College and William & Mary.

The panel of judges that picked Uzurv consisted of Tammie Smith of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mark Constantine, president and CEO of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, and Dr. James Cotter, a gerontology professor at VCU. Cotter said Uzurv’s broad appeal and business foundation pleased the judges.

“It is appealing to all older people,” he said. “They seemed to have the business ready to go.”

Despite the green light from Aging2.0, Uzurv finds itself having to yield its rollout in Virginia due to state DMV regulations. The startup is currently in discussions with the agency to decide whether to classify the company as a transportation network company (TNC), a designation created specifically for Uber and Lyft. That label comes with $100,000 fees and requirements to screen and insure drivers – provisions Uzurv would like to steer clear of.

Uzurv CEO Matt Donlon said his company is a reservation network company that doesn’t readily fit into current state code.

“We wouldn’t be able to operate in Virginia,” he said if Uzurv is considered a TNC. “We hope to get this resolved by the end of the month.”

The other startups that presented at last week’s Aging 2.0 event were:

– Palette, an intergenerational arts programming provider

– Careify, home care management software for households and car workers

– Livewire, a home technology company for monitoring older people

– Music for Wellness, a music wellness provider

– Lifelong Design, a marketplace for products, information and services that caters to people 65 and older

– Be Me, the Lynchburg team, an online tool that encourages healthy behavior

– Simply Connected from William & Mary, an interface that simplifies Android screens

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