Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recargo Xatori PlugShare Done

People are afraid that if they drive an electric vehicle, they’ll run out of juice somewhere. So to convince more people to buy electric cars and dominate the charging station locator market, Xatori and Recargo are merging. The combined charge finder developers will go by the name Recargo to promote their station map and trip planner app PlugShare.

Xatori and its co-founders Forrest North (CEO) and Armen Petrosian (CTO) had raised $400,000 in 2011 for its suite of apps. PlugShare is North America’s largest network of EV charging stations, boasting 15,000 locations and 100,000 downloads. GreenCharge lets Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and Plug-in Prius owners monitor their vehicles’ energy levels. ChargeManager lets businesses track the status of whole fleets of EVs. Recargo is a privately funded startup that runs a self-named charging station locator and, a popular EV news source and community.

Recargo CEO Brian Kariger will be the chief of the newly merged company, and North will become COO. All their employees are staying on through the deal, bringing Recargo’s headcount to around 15. Both companies’ offices in Venice and Menlo Park, Calif., will remain open. “Our goal is still to do whatever we can to encourage the growth of EV and plugin vehicles,” North tells me. “We met Recargo, hit it off, found we had some of the same objectives, and decided to work together.” North called the merger a “small deal” financially but said that “investors were taken care of.”

Both Recargo and Xatori doubled their user base now, and will significantly grow their communities through the merger, as North says the companies only had about a 20 percent overlap in users. Beyond Recargo becoming a one-stop app for finding charging stations and EV news, the deal should boost its status with auto-makers. North tells me some car companies weren’t experienced working with tiny, nimble startups, but doubling its headcount will give it more clout. “We’re on a little more stable footing, have a longer runway, and a bigger team to help EV adoption.”

The fact is that gasoline is everywhere, but most people don’t realize that electric vehicle chargers are rapidly proliferating. The are more than 10X as many charging stations in the U.S. now as at the start of 2011. Domestically, there are now over 20,000 charges, and by the end of 2013 there will be over 170,000 EVs on the road. If Recargo’s PlugShare app for iOS and Android can instill confidence in potential EV buyers so they’re not worried about ending up stranded, sales could accelerate.

And honestly, that’s good for the rest of the tech world as well. Sometimes I worry that smart people are building frivolous apps and trying to get rich instead of tackling a serious global problem: climate change. If we don’t get the environment back on track, we might need to start factoring climate change into the valuations of giants like Apple. What happens to sales of iPhones if whole cities are consumed by the ocean as greenhouse gases from cars melt the ice caps and raise the sea level?

Recargo‘s charging station maps might not be sexy, but they could help save the world.

Josh Constine 23 May, 2013

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