2009 revenue: $1.2 million
Estimated 2010 revenue: $1.5 million
Rick Steele, who studied naval architecture at the University of Michigan, has always been intrigued by transportation. So when Steele, 47, the founder of liveprint.com, realized he could address the everyday problem of traffic congestion by encouraging carpooling, he decided to start an additional company. In 2002, Steele founded NuRide with about $1 million from angel investors. Consumers know that congestion frustrates drivers, pollutes the air, and wastes fuel, but they lack incentives to share rides, he says. This is especially true today, when only 10.7 percent of people carpool to work, compared to 19.7 percent in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. NuRide, which launched online in 2005, teams with local restaurants, businesses, and websites—it has 300 sponsors so far—to offer members discounts and rewards for each mile traveled by carpool, public transportation, walking, or biking. Members join for free and log their trips on NuRide's website. The company gets most of its funding from regional and state government programs intended to reduce pollution and traffic congestion. It also offers sponsors paid premium placements on its website. NuRide has more than 47,700 members in cities in Connecticut, Texas, New York, Virginia and D.C. and is targeting three new markets this year. Steele estimates NuRide members have reduced their driving by 4 million car trips and saved 4,763,000 gallons of gas in the past six years. "It's about taking care of the people who do the right thing," says Steele. "The happier they are, the more their friends join."