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A new startup based in Chicago is working to make your Uber ride more enjoyable with the addition of entertainment and comfort. Meet Ivee:

What Ivee will do is make a ride as relaxing as a spa, as productive as your office and as entertaining as a home theater…

Alex Giannikoulis

CEO, Ivee

A new startup based in Chicago is working to make your Uber ride more enjoyable with the addition of entertainment and comfort.

Ivee, a company founded by Alex Giannikoulis, is building a service that offers ride-hailing companies tablets with access to streaming platforms and other entertainment apps, as well as immersive experiences that offer massages.

“What Ivee will do is make a ride as relaxing as a spa, as productive as your office and as entertaining as a home theater,” Giannikoulis said. “Every time you get into a vehicle, it should adapt to your needs, and know who you are and what’s important to you.”

Ivee is currently piloting its product with individual Uber and Lyft drivers in Miami, but Giannikoulis said he is working to establish official partnerships with ride-hailing companies so he can deploy his service at scale. In the Miami pilot alone, Ivee said it expects to reach 25,000 passengers. The pilot started in December and will run through the end of March.

Right now, Ivee is working with automotive supplier Brose to provide the entertainment equipment used in the pilot.Brose’s seat cushion provides vibrating massages and immersive options that are equipped with haptic feedback capabilities that make the cushion pulsate with the media the user is watching.

Ivee is currently free to the drivers and passengers as the company looks to establish customer interest. Ivee intends to eventually license the service to ride-hailing companies as opposed to working with individual drivers. As of now, Ivee’s business model operates on advertising it shows on its screens inside vehicles.

Giannikoulis is a serial entrepreneur and startup investor in Chicago. His previous companies include sales agency The Apex Group, which was acquired by Colorado-based Level 3 Communications. Giannikoulis was later a general partner at Chicago-based Graphene Ventures, where he helped lead investment deals in startups like Snapchat, Lyft, Jiobit and Apervita.

“I spent three years on the venture side and realized I really missed operating,” Giannikoulis said.

Giannikoulis founded Ivee in 2018 and in 2019, participated in the Plug and Play accelerator in California. Besides Miami, Ivee has tested its tech in pilot programs in Chicago and Los Angeles. To date, Giannikoulis said Ivee has provided services in nearly 100,000 rides.

Giannikoulis wouldn’t disclose how much funding Ivee has raised so far, but said he is currently fundraising more capital for the startup.

Drivers are paid to use it based on passenger usage and satisfaction. It’s one way Ivee is exploring a “hardware as a service” business model.

Drivers approved for the pilot can self-install the Ivee Inside infotainment screen, along with Brose’s Responsive Seat, which is a back cushion that provides a vibrating massage and is equipped with speakers and haptic feedback capability so that it pulsates with the media that’s playing.

The passenger can enable the features by tapping on the Ivee display or speaking to it.

The technology was built as an aftermarket product for which Ivee and Brose did the software and hardware integration.

“Ivee web- and voice-enabled the Responsive Seat so we can change the duration, intensity, type, and price of the experience per passenger, per location” and more, Giannikoulis said in a statement to Automotive News. “Imagine saying, ‘Hey Ivee start massage’ in your next ride-hail vehicle leaving the airport. Also, this Responsive Seat requires no physical switches in the vehicle – which means less cost, damage, design compromises.”

The flexible interiors of robotaxis and self-driving shuttles could allow for riders to have more tailored experiences including personalized lighting, infotainment, seating configurations and even health and wellness features.

— Alexa St. John