June 20, 2014

APIs and App Developers Drive Good Carma (... That’s Carma With a "C")


CarpoolApp development competitions, or “hackathons,” have surged in recent years, as they invite software developers to compete for significant cash prizes to create game-changing apps or propel the use of open APIs. They offer developers, who are passionate about tech trends or causes, an opportunity to disrupt existing technologies, while receiving acclaim. Carma, a company that has recently grabbed the spotlight for their recent contest announcement, has been heralded for their innovative approach in this arena. 

Since 2007, SOSventures has been investing in Carma to promote carpooling in various markets throughout the world. Carma provides a platform and mobile app that is designed to help users find nearby commuters with whom they can share rides. It’s not a new idea, but Carma wants to set themselves apart from a new breed of so-called “ride-sharing” apps that provide a way for users to find rides on-demand.

Most people have heard about ride-sharing apps like Uber, Lyft, and SideCar. These apps connect passengers with drivers who are not professionally licensed to drive taxis or livery vehicles. However, Carma is much different—they endeavor to connect passengers in a way that lets them carpool and share the cost(s) of a ride between them. Using GPS tracking and matching, the app allows users to split the cost of a ride, which ends up being a fraction of what Uber or Lyft would cost. Yet, Carma has one major problem—assembling the critical mass of users needed to make the service viable.

Now, the firm is looking to invest in the app developer community to help make real-time ride-sharing happen, through the release of an API and a whopping $2.5 million in prize money for developers who use the API to drive carpooling adoption. While Carma isn’t purely “on demand,” the company is trying to make carpooling happen in “real-time.” That’s what the new open API and prize money are really all about—seeding the growth in carpooling by making the service available to more users across more applications.

The API offers access to a number of Carma features, such as the ability to register, update, and search for users through their apps. Developers can also use the API to facilitate user-to-user messaging and the ability for drivers to receive compensation for the ride.

The new prize offering has three components:

  • A $1 million prize for the first third-party developer to build an app that results in more than 10,000 daily trips over a 90-day period.
  • A $1 million bounty for the first developer on Carma's payroll to create a feature that results in 1,000 daily trips in any metro area that it operates. [Carma is also hiring, and the prize is open to new employees, too.] 
  • Finally, there’s $500,000 up for grabs that will eventually be distributed to up to 10 development teams that would like to join the Carma Accelerator at the company’s headquarters in Cork, Ireland. That accelerator will be run like other SOSventures accelerators, which offer free office space, facilities, and mentoring to help the teams grow their ideas. 

Carma’s Prize Fund is not only a global challenge to app developers, but it’s also indicative of the broader tech trend that offers strong financial incentives to developers at hackathons and other development competitions. You can learn more about events like these by visiting the Mashery API Network events page.